“Look at it this way.” That’s the thought that ran through my mind the moment I saw the photo of the owl, and I smiled. I’m aware we each have a unique point of view–our own way of looking at things.
It’s human nature to align with people who share our views. It’s challenging to understand the opinions of others when we disagree. Of course, agreeing or disagreeing is a function of our natural ability to judge. We are free to decide right and wrong, true or false, and good and bad for ourselves.
One of the most valuable skills I learned comes from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. One of the seven habits is to seek first to understand, then to be understood. This model is built on empathetic communication with a strong focus on listening. As I practiced this model of communication, my whole life changed. I began to understand other people. My awareness grew beyond understanding what others think as I started to understand what others feel, too.
As a teacher, it is important to me to make my ideas understood, yet I discovered that my understanding expanded when I could encompass different points of view. There are countless ways to see life that are foreign to me. When I seek to understand, I must stretch my familiar paradigm; I must venture into new and different concepts. With practice, I adopt the habit of expanding my ability to see things from many perspectives.
Understanding our differences allows us to accept diversity. Understanding our unique points of view also helps us discover our similarities – starting with the fact that we all want to be understood. We all want to feel loved and wanted, and the list of similar values is vast indeed. Sometimes we are expressing the same ideas with different words. Finding this awareness allows us to build synergy and win, win results. This is a step forward on the pathway into a new way of living together in peace with plenty of everything for everyone.
Be aware I’m not required to adopt the beliefs of another to understand his or her point of view. For example, I need not become a Christian or adopt that faith to trust and cooperate with Christians. What another person believes creates his or her reality, not mine. If, for example, a Christian thinks he must change my beliefs to save my soul, I understand. I recognize that he acts with the best intentions. He wants the best for me, but in our diversity, we don’t agree on what is best for me. I am happy to let him be as he is. My wish for him is love, joy, and peace, and he is free to find all this and more in his religion.
I intend to expand my understanding. I intentionally seek first to understand, then to be understood. When I grasp and appreciate your point of view, my knowledge of us grows. I intend to cooperate and build synergy to the best of my ability without expecting others to adopt my beliefs. I easily release fear of the beliefs of others because I am confident I create my own reality. Another person’s beliefs cannot control my life. I am grateful for diversity while I understand we have many shared values. Together we plant the seeds of an age of peace, love, joy, and abundance for all.