After what seems to be a lifetime of studying people, I am only now beginning to appreciate how different we all are. I used to hear people say, “Aren’t you glad the whole world isn’t like you?”, and deep in my mind, I would think, “That wouldn’t be too bad!” Okay, maybe I was a little arrogant, but I would suggest I was more naïve. I saw the differences between people as challenges to overcome.
But now, I see this whole situation differently, call it age, wisdom, humility, or just plain being worn down. I no longer see differences between people as threats, but as strengths that forge linkages between people.
I think this first occurred to me in my relationship with Mary Kay. Seldom are our disagreements over whether something is right or wrong but merely over our differences. She sees a situation or decision to be made from her “fearfully and wonderfully” perspective, and I see the same exact situation/decision from my much different “fearfully and wonderfully” perspective.
But during the discussion, often I do not appreciate that her “fearfully and wonderfully” uniqueness is a God-given perspective. It has taken me years of help from God, others, and reading to come to the point of being thankful for her perspective. I no longer see her view as lacking faith or being negative or…but now I know that she has been given to me to ensure I appreciate a variety of views on any one issue as helpful.
So we first must own our own perspective and offer it as simply that, “my view”. I must be careful not to attach a right or wrong designation to either my own or MK’s perspective. As we have been able to own our own positions, we find that we can actually hear what the other is saying. As I am able to become secure in my perspective, but not see it as the only right solution. I can consider the merits of her insights and suddenly find it much easier to make a much better decision in light of both of our insights than we could have made with only one of our perspectives.
I learned this skill in working in the context of teams. As I was able to be a non-threatened presence in team discussions, I found we made much better decisions as a team which were much different from what I first felt needed to be done.
I must admit that it has taken me decades to develop this non-anxious presence and learn this engagement skill without owning the result. I must trust the process and everyone on the team to also engage. At the very minimum, I must model this.
Now, I can honestly say that I don’t see differences between people as weaknesses, but these distinctives are what make our ultimate outcomes stronger. The differences are not liabilities but rather linkages that truly form healthier marriages, relationships, and teams.