Normally we focus on our differences when describing a disagreement. We feel better about being part of this disagreement because we can logically explain why we differ.
But aside from a disagreement, there are not many times that we focus on how we are different from others. We just don’t. Herein lies the best explanation I can give for the messiness of life.
When trust is built, we are lulled into thinking that we are alike. That we can say anything and the other person will accept us or what we are saying.
What we forget is that we are different. That casual conversations, discussions at our place of work or volunteer organization are understood at different degrees by the people we are talking to.
Our differences always degrade (to some extent) the understanding of what we are trying to communicate. Not because we cannot hear. But how we interpret, place meaning, and emphasis is based on where we have been and what we know or don’t know.
Seeking perspective and context is an attempt to fill in the gaps of what we heard. To not allow our being different from the next person to have things misunderstood or misinterpreted. Perspective and context help make what we hear more understandable for us, even though we have not had the same life experiences as the person we are listening to.
That is why listening is so important. Asking follow up questions to what we heard. All of this to slow us down and keep us from letting our differences get in the way of what someone else is trying to communicate to us.
Our differences make us impatient when being exposed to new ideas, suggestions for ways we can do things differently. Our past doesn’t give us any help in understanding what is being said. So we become impatient because we can’t grasp the real meaning or understand the value of what we are being told. So we give up too quickly and become frustrated.
There are lots of examples where our differences provide the friction in our lives that leads to some of life’s messiness. Remember this when dealing with family, friends, co-workers, or new acquaintences. You will have a chance to build deeper and more substantive relationships when you approach a familiar person or stranger understanding that neither one of us is the same.