Experience Leads to Understanding

I’ve lived in cities of just about every size, and it’s been an experience. The large city can’t see much past the edge of each neighborhood. The small town is convinced it’s the biggest deal around. Put someone who grew up in one setting into the other setting, and Hollywood tells us that’s a sitcom. The same is true between different cultures, regardless of the organizing nucleus of those cultures. Changing from what you know to what you don’t can be terrifying.

But the relocated person has an opportunity, if they’re smart enough to grab it. They have a chance to learn how the world looks from the other group’s point of view. In our microcosm-filled world, it’s hard to get that kind of opportunity, and it’s so necessary to understand other people better, to move between groups more smoothly, to communicate between groups with respect. At the same time, it’s important to learn how to get that perspective, because it’s easier to create experiences appropriate to diverse groups and to facilitate collaboration and an exchange of ideas between them.

We always hear about needing the ability to put yourself into someone else’s shoes to give yourself a different perspective on disagreements and problems, but without the practical experience of seeing those different perspectives firsthand for yourself, you really can’t demonstrate that understanding.

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