Building Bridges Across Differences

Throughout history, humans have argued about all kinds of perceived differences – generational, spiritual, political, financial, educational, racial, class. Is there a way to build a bridge between individuals regardless of their differences? Absolutely, one person at a time.

The first step is to release judgment and expectation about who or what you believe about another person, or another group of people. As blogger Toni Bernhard says, “Judgment is just a recipe for suffering: start with our dissatisfaction over how a person happens to be and mix in our desire for them to be otherwise.”

Notice your limiting thoughts and opinions, and release them. Without direct experience, your belief is based upon hearsay and the judgment of others. When meeting someone you perceive as different in any way, have no pre-conceived ideas about their behavior, belief system, or personality, and accept them as a unique individual.

Avoid comparison as well, which is another form of judgment. Comparing yourself or your beliefs with another means that one or the other is judged to be “better” or “worse,” “right” or “wrong.” However, because each of us is unique, superiority is only an illusion that serves no one. There is no need to convince others or try to change anything about them such as the way you think they ought to be. We each have the right to our own path.

Engage with that person and uncover a wealth of common interests. Rather than make statements, ask questions about him or her. Ask about what they enjoy most about their life, what they value about their political candidates or church, or what it was like to grow up in their culture or country. Have a dialogue, an exchange of ideas, without prejudice. Use active listening. When you have different viewpoints, honor those with respect, and you can learn a great deal about others’ lives.

If you value the differences which make up our richly diverse world, you will focus on commonalities with your neighbor.

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