There are many things that make us unique and distinct – and there are larger, universal things that connect us. We all feel emotion. We may express it differently based on our culture, personality, and context (many of us would not bring full emotional expression to work, for example) but to be able to work together, solve problems together, and survive and thrive together – we need to strengthen the fundamental connections between us as human beings. By asking, with presence and focus on the other, “What’s it like to be you?”, we take ourselves out of the standard narrative of our lives with us as the central character, to focus on the experience of someone else. This builds the capacity for empathy, compassion, and, connection that we need to work together effectively in order to create solutions for our organisations, our communities, and our planet.
“As soon as we slip into the idea of the ‘bad other’ we are not fully awake. It’s hard to think about what’s going on politically and not buy into a seriously bad other. It’s part of the trance that keeps us from being awake. In her work on Radical Compassion, Tara Brach reminds us that “…because of bias and our conditioning most people don’t truly believe we’re all equal.” We carry in our minds some sense of hierarchy, whether based on perceived intelligence, culture, race, world view, etc. “When…we slip into a hierarchy of other, and when we live out of that hierarchy we cause harm. “ Whether we’re thinking we’re superior or inferior, we stop connecting with others.” What’s the antidote? Again, Tara suggests, “…pause, and ask ‘What’s it like to be you?’ Look at the other person and say to yourself ‘not superior, not inferior’. Who are we when we’re neither superior nor inferior to another, not trapped in the illusion of being separate?”
To meet the challenges of our organisations, our communities, and our world – the challenges of our lives — we need to work together with others who may look, act, and think differently to us, and to what we’re used to and comfortable with. We won’t heal our divisions through anger. We will only heal them through care and connection. This takes courage. Remember — we are both different and connected: “If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” — Australian Aboriginal Women’s Network