Look around. Notice the first stranger you see. What do you think about them? What jumps to mind? What assumptions do you make? Now imagine that person as part of your family; a son or daughter, brother or sister, maybe one of your parents.
Can you switch perspectives? How does doing that change your initial feelings about that person?
Now take a look at yourself from the eyes of a stranger. What assumptions might they be making about you? Maybe they think they can guess your political opinions, religion, work ethic, honesty level, etc. just by glancing at you.
How would they arrive at these assumptions? How do you arrive at yours?
We don’t know the strangers we judge, but I wonder if our initial opinion of them tends to be more on the negative side, especially if they are unlike us in any way. I’m guessing that if these people were in our circle of friends and family, we would most likely show more empathy than judgement towards them. But towards the stranger? I suspect the opposite is often true.
But what if we approached everyone from the “family and friends” perspective?
Would we help them when they need it, at some consequence to ourselves? Would we tolerate them when they say or do things we don’t agree with? Would we try to support them in their struggles?
How do we view people outside of our friends and family? The answer makes all the difference in how we live our lives and interact in society. And right now, as a society, we too often lack the empathy and willingness to help those outside of our circle, especially if it costs us something.
The saddest aspect of this is that there really is nobody outside of our circle. All of our webs are interconnected.
You might know someone who refers to everybody as “brother”. Lots of people do it. But have you ever taken a second to think about what that phrase implies and how it calls us to behave? What if we truly viewed each other as global brothers and sisters? How might that view change our attitudes and actions?
Try it. For one week, consciously try viewing everybody you encounter as you would one of your family or friends. See if it makes any difference in your attitude toward others or how you treat them. If there are positive results, note them and adopt them permanently.
Let’s revive empathy, understanding and compassion by making a simple yet profound shift in the way we see people.
by Todd Fulginiti