Thursday, December 30, 2010

In defense of talking to other people

For all that we hear that diversity is a good thing, that it's better for the world that we're all a little different and each bring another flavor to the human potluck, it can be hard to accept that other people don't like or care about the things that - to you or to me - seem, well, ultimate. Why don't they "get" it?

I think this is one of the great causes of conflict in our world: We all share huge patches of common ground and may hold the same opinions about many things but we don't agree about what things actually matter.

How do you respond when you realize anew that most other people don't think and care like you do about money, politics, the environment, faith, or family?

With that as a disclaimer, I just wanted to say: I don't "get" people who don't seem to want or need relationships with other people, who don't find human beings precious and fascinating and ultimately the most interesting and valuable thing under the sun.

So, when it comes to relating to other people, I'd like to speak up on behalf of taking risks to seek out relationships. Make it your habit to try to get to know people. Go to that social event, talk to strangers, and treat the person behind the counter like a human being and not an object; see what happens. You might really blow it, I know. Or they might. They might hurt you. But you'll never find out if you limit yourself to the people you already know, and/or the fake (but safe) one-way relationships you can have with celebrities and people on TV and in other media.

Most of us fear the awkwardness of risking relationship with people who might be really different from us. But they may not be as different as you think.

I saw a kid at church wearing a T-shirt that said "awkward is awesome." Could be. Only a willingness to step out into awkwardness can make way for awesomeness. Here's my hunch: You will never experience the best that life has to offer if you don't engage with other people on this planet.

If I ever end up writing my book about listening, this will be why. I hate to see so many people missing out. Missing out on what they could get out of life; missing out on what they could give others. A few adjustments of perspective and practice could make all the difference.

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