How our differences can bring us together



It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.

~Audre Lorde~

In my previous article I wrote about whether our differences can bring us together. Now I would like to consider how this might happen. At first glance it might seem like an impossible task. We seem more polarized each day and pulled to extreme positions. This only causes resentments, hard feelings and is destructive to any sense of unity. What would it take to reverse this trend?

I think the key lies in how we look at and think about ourselves and others. Don Miguel Ruiz suggested four agreements we should make with ourselves based on Toltec Indian practices. His son, Don Jose Ruiz added a fifth agreement. I have written about these in the past as well.  Lets consider how these agreements might guide us in our interactions with others and help us use our differences constructively.

The first agreement is to be impeccable with your word. This means saying what you mean and meaning what you say. It also involves speaking only the truth. Lies lead to mutual distrust. We will never reach agreement with others if we lie to them.

The second agreement is to not take anything personally. We must remember that people say and do things for their own purposes, whether they are expressing their beliefs or working toward what is important to them. They are not out to attack you unless you both agree to be in conflict. Remember that you are also acting in your own best interest and are not out to harm anyone either.

The third agreement is to not make assumptions. Sometimes we are tempted to think others believe the same way we do or just the opposite. Do you like it when someone assumes things about you? If you find yourself with such assumptions, find a gentle way to check them out and don’t start an argument or war in the process.

The fourth agreement is to always do your best. Don’t expect perfection from yourself or from others. Do the best you can. If someone disagrees with your approach, try listening first and explaining second.

The fifth agreement is to be skeptical but learn to listen. You are not always right and neither is anyone else. It’s okay to question your own opinions as well as those of others. What is the evidence on which you both base your beliefs? Can you hear each other out without attacking? It takes practice.

There is a tradition passed on by several thinkers. Before you speak, it is wise to ask yourself if what you want to say is true (agreement 1), whether it is necessary (agreement 5) and whether what you have to say is kind (agreement 4). This does not mean that you need to examine every word that comes out of your mouth, but it suggest that you need to pay attention to what you say and the effect of your words on others.

Even more important than what you say is how you listen. If you are thinking of ways to counteract everything you hear, it will be a short conversation. How different would it be if you were to listen carefully and ask for clarification of anything you don’t understand or with which you do not agree.

If you can do this with everyone you meet and others can do the same with you, we will have made a good start toward resolving our differences. Give it a try.

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Teen phone privileges

Rory Browne
Rory Browne, former Unix Admin at Ryanair (2007-2009)

Please confirm if I got this right:

  1. You secretly monitor your daughter’s phone.
  2. She found out.
  3. She got very upset.
  4. You removed her phone and grounded her in response to her getting upset.
  5. You fear she may be hiding something from you. Do you (after having secretly monitored her phone) have any evidence of this?
  6. You’re wondering if you did the right thing.

Am I correct so far? If so here’s my interpretation.

  1. She was led to believe that she had some basic privacy when it came to her phone. That nobody was spying on her without her knowledge or consent.
  2. She felt betrayed, when one of the two people she should trust most in the world proved that wrong.
  3. She’s grounded and has had her phone takes away for being upset. Is she not allowed to feel emotion? Are you some kind of Vulcan like person who insists that your daughter suppresses or abstains from feelings?

You’re being completely unreasonable. You’re punishing her for having feelings, and an expectation of privacy, and you think there’s a chance you may have done the right thing. Based on what you’ve told us, you have not.

Now; what can you do about it;

Firstly you need to apologise to your daughter. This will have the added benefit of her knowing that when she does something terribly wrong (and she will occasionally; it’s called having a life), that it’s ok to apologise, and is not a sign of weakness.

Recognise that there are some things that are none of your business. There’s no such thing as having nothing to hide (if nothing else the PIN number for your bank card should be hidden). After you’ve apologised talk to your daughter, about the things that concern you, and see if you can come up with together something where you know about the specific things which concern you (like is she doing drugs, for example), while allowing her some basic privacy on things that are none of your business unless and until such point as she chooses to share them with you.