If you have watched any news for the last couple of years, you’ve probably seen several stories about intense debates, protests (or riots…which are very different from protests), and general unrest. Politicians and regular citizens alike seem to be passing judgement on others before they have a complete picture of what may actually be happening. If you’ve seen these, then you have witnessed an unsettling trend in our society that accepts and even encourages snap judgments. In essence, we as a people are saying “just because someone has a different perspective than you, they’re absolutely wrong, and the world would probably be a better place without them.” (Heaven forbid.)
Aristotle said “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” In other words, you’re a wise person if you can open your mind enough to understand why someone has a different perspective than you–even if you don’t necessarily agree with them. I’m hoping that the generation with access to the most information in the history of the world (our generation) can prove how educated our minds are.
Asking if someone else is an educated mind doesn’t seem to help much, though. As soon as we start pointing out someone else’s flaws, it makes it that much more difficult for them to accept our input. The real question we should be asking is, “am I an educated mind?” (If you recognized the dual meaning behind the title of this article, congratulations; I think that means you’re an educated mind!)
When that one guy came in “guns blazing” to accuse you and your company of being incompetent, how did you react? What was he trying to communicate? Was that woman who came in asking for help really just trying to stop you from doing what you needed to do, or did you really have some time to stop and assist or train her? Did that guy who cut you off on the highway really mean to? Does that group who has a different opinion than yours really mean to wipe you (and your way of life) off of the face of the earth, or do they just have a different culture? Is there a happy medium?
They key here is remembering that there are people behind the problems. Every human being you encounter has a life, has a past, has a story. If you stopped to get to know who they really are, you would probably like them. People are not always the cause of problems, but they have problems that they need help with (just like you). The other people you interact with are not really out to get you. It’s extremely rare for one person to be so obsessed about another person that they intentionally try to ruin their lives, and I know that I would only be flattering myself to think that I’m the kind of person to obsess about. Would you?
The easiest thing to do is to quickly pass judgement on someone, but when was taking the easiest route ever the best route, or the one that ever led to the best results? An illustration of this can be found in our own bodies: muscles need opposition to be able to grow. No muscle ever got bigger or stronger by taking the easy route. Our minds are muscles too, and sometimes the best thing we can do for them is to take a look at things from a different perspective, and try to understand them. It’s called “empathy.” Isn’t it about time that we educated our minds?
Tell me about a time where you paused before passing judgement. Has it impacted your career, or your personal life? How has it changed your business?