Take the Other to Lunch (or Breakfast or Dinner)

taking the other to lunch image

By Troy Headrick

Most thoughtful people would agree that being able to think critically or “outside the box” is something one should aspire to.  I don’t see any sort of controversy associated with such an assertion.

One of the things I do as the director of a writing center at a community college in Texas is create and deliver workshops that help students learn what critical thinking is and provide them with opportunities to practice it.  By the way, during my workshops, I often tell students that I actually prefer the term “creative thinking” to “critical thinking” because intellectual activity of this type is inherently creative.  When people think critically, they create a new way of looking at something (and thus see this thing in a new light) or they construct connections between ideas that heretofore hadn’t existed.  Critical thinking is thusly creative because it allows the thinker to put an idiosyncratic spin on something that is completely unique to the person doing the thinking.  Critical thinking is creative thinking because it is very similar to imagining or interpreting, both acts of creation.

I would argue that it is easier to think creatively or outside the box if one looks for opportunities to have creative or “outside the box” life experiences.  In other words, living an unusual life (or having out of the ordinary life experiences) is likely to make one more open to the possibility of entertaining or embracing unusual or extraordinary thoughts.

Ergo, one of the best ways to open one’s mind is to seek out experiences that take one outside his or her comfort zone.  Many want to live lives of comfort, but comfortable people often have no incentive to move beyond conventional thinking and ideas.  (Necessity is not only the mother of invention; it is the mother of creative thinking—aren’t invention and creative thinking just two different ways to say the same thing?)

Those of us who want to improve our thinking should broaden our experiential horizons.  Having said all this, I’d like you to watch Take “the Other” to Lunch, a TED Talk by Elizabeth Lesser.

Lesser’s lesson is simple.  One way of getting outside one’s comfort zone is to talk to and get to know the kind of people one would normally try to avoid.  We live in these little silos of thought especially in this tribal period.  We wall ourselves off from ideas that run counter to our own little way of seeing the world.  Doing this keeps us parochial.  The best way to grow is to try something hard, and what could be harder than sitting down with someone who is nearly certain to say something that one finds objectionable if not abhorrent?

We owe it to ourselves—if we want to get beyond our limitations—to get to know “the other.”  By talking with him or her, we might find that we have at least one thing in common.  This one thing could help begin a conversation, serve as a foundation, or even be used to build a bridge.

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found at Thinker Boy:  Blog & Art.




19 thoughts on “Take the Other to Lunch (or Breakfast or Dinner)

    1. I’m not sure. I currently live in Texas. Have you ever had a breakfast taco? I’m not sure there’s anything better than one (or more) of those.

  1. my Church denomination just made a national vote on a controversial topic. Our church has views on both sides of the vote that run mild to extreme. During a seminar to discuss it in our local church I chose to sit at the table with people who had the opposite opinion from mine so I could listen to understand. I am glad I did. I heard and learned a lot

    1. I applaud you for stepping outside your comfort zone! We all need to do that. If we don’t learn to listen to one another respectfully, I’m afraid we have a dark future ahead. I’m not saying we always have to abandon our opinions. I’m saying we have to hear the full range of thought on everything. Otherwise, we suffer from ignorance or partial ignorance.

  2. Also, “creative thinking” makes it sound like you aren’t jabbing at someones ability to think! Creativity needs to be taught. It’s not inherent, but gained skill at an activity. Critical thinking…that is a vital part of being human! We all have it, really. But when you are being critical, not even your instincts can come up with the ideas that a creative solution can. :3333 MY TWO CENTS ON THAT “CRITICAL THINKING” WORD

    1. “Critical” does sound sort of negative and judgmental, doesn’t it? I certainly agree that creativity can be taught and cultivated. Unfortunately, “the system” seems to discourage creativity as we age and become “respected members of society.” I’m amazed at how naturally creative children are. My hope is that we can all hang on to at least a piece of that little child that resides in all of us. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  3. Yeah, tribal personality deep within has prompted us to subscribe to a norm that causes the least resistance within our social and identity groups. Groups we associate less with we are bound to be less influenced by and less careful towards the ideas of. I think. It’s science, I assume!

    1. When I was an undergraduate taking my first sociology course, the professor introduced the concept of “ethnocentrism.” It was one of those ideas that had a profound effect on my thinking–it helped me understand many things which had hitherto been somewhat mysterious and misunderstood. I truly appreciate your comments!

    1. Great! One of the reasons I wrote this was to give folks a chance to hear Lesser speak. Her message is important and timely and her curative is interesting. As people continue to retreat to their tribal camps, the result is a kind of general dumbing down of the nation. I fear for the nation (and the world) if this continues and accelerates. Thank you very much for your response!

      1. I agree. There’s something powerful about a meal. Simple, but forces one to put barriers down. The next step is to have meal in a home. So good on so many levels. Keep up the great work.

    1. Thanks for your insightful comment. Walls never work. They don’t keep up safe from others. They keep us ignorant of what’s going on on the other side of such a barrier.

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