Connecting with people who are different

May 03, 2021
Photo by Jud Mackrill on Unsplash

In Talking To Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell argues that something is very wrong with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know, and because we don’t know how to talk to people who are different, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding that have profound effects on lives and the world.

The next three Daily Tips will give us three helpful strategies to overcome those differences. All three start with our own ability to listen and have nothing to do with the other person.

Listen with empathy

The only thing you need to do to be an empathetic listener is to remember that we’re all just trying to survive, physically and psychologically.

Some of us are better at life than others. Some of us are incompetent. Some people make a mess of everything they touch. Some are in a temporary mess and are just doing everything they can to hold it together. You never know what’s going on inside someone.

The person you’re speaking with may be experiencing excruciating psychological suffering, or be blissfully unaware of themselves. But like you, they’re just trying to fill needs for nurturance, autonomy, celebration, integrity, play, interdependence, and communion.

Every choice, every word, every action -- even the unconscious, inconsistent, and outrageous ones -- are all done in an effort to meet some very real, very human need.

This drive to fulfill human needs is something that you have in common with all human beings, even people who hate you.

Confident Communicator Challenge

Empathy becomes more difficult as our emotions take over, and it’s a skill to practice like any other, but one thing you can do to listen with empathy is to simply ask yourself: what human needs are the other person trying to fill?


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