Good Advice

So, I recently posted on Facebook the following:

“We have to get over the uncomfortability of things being messy.” – Masud Olufani on racial discussions

“Tension is not something we are afraid of in Judaism… It propels us forward.” Mayim Bialik on women in spiritual leadership.

These two statements got my attention this week – it’s something that the “PC” crowd needs to understand. Changing terms, eliminating uncomfortable discussion topics, etc. are not going to help change the world. Love, tactful expression, willingness to *listen* and *empathize* are what we need to stop being stuck where we are and begin moving forward.

One other statement got my attention, by a lady named Maya Mansour:  “… really getting to know someone and engaging with people past their visual identities.”  That is a completely awesome phrase.

I’ve always said that to eliminate a prejudice, you have to get to know individuals, because prejudice is not against an individual.  It’s a concept against a bias against a “visual identity”.  What we look like means nothing to who we are.  Now you will likely find that there are wonderful people in every “category” of visual identity, and you’ll likely find some real jerks, too.  People are people.

Part of the concept of active listening is actually hearing what people are saying, and not what your own bias is hearing them say.  There’s the typical example of “You look nice today”, which can be taken plainly, that your appearance is pleasant; it can be taken with an ear toward criticism (say for instance, you grew up with a critical parent and are used to hearing the criticism underlying everything they say) – “well, you look nice today, but you looked like crap yesterday”; it can be taken with an ear of insecurity – “you look nice today – finally put a bit more effort into your appearance, huh?”

When we’re dealing with issues of prejudice, be that regarding skin color, economic class, gender, religion, physical or mental handicap, age, nationality or any number of other prejudices out there – those listening skills are crucial, for both parties.  I’m not one who believes prejudice and bias only go one way.  I do believe that every aspect of your self-identity has an influence on how you hear things, no matter what someone else might intend to say.

But I think the above speakers are absolutely correct that we can only move forward if we are willing to sit in tension, be uncomfortable, and move forward in love with the idea of healing past hurts.

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2 thoughts on “Good Advice

  1. Some may consider this not very nice….and this isn’t aimed at you sweet sister….Get over yourself…I think way to often we say that we respond the way that we do because of the way we were reared…
    ENOUGH ALREADY, if you are aware of that, then change. It’s as simple as that. We do not have to be the same as the way we were reared, if you can see this happening and don’t want to be like that, then don’t be.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head with one phrase – “if you are aware of that”. Too many people truly *aren’t* aware that they are listening with a bias, and looking for insults or put-downs where none are intended. Part of communicating is realizing that there’s what the speaker intends to say, and how the listener perceives it. If you know your listener has difficulties laying aside listening with a bias, then rephrase in a way that they’ll hopefully be able to hear the intent. Alternatively, ask them to repeat back to you, in their own words what they heard. It can help both people in communicating more clearly.

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