Love Thy Neighbor
Regardless of how we consume information, our daily exposure to numerous opinions, ideas, and experiences from myriad sources leads us to ask ourselves, “Why should we attempt to understand other people’s perspectives?” Natasha Thapar-Olmos, assistant dean of online psychology programs and associate professor of psychology at the Graduate School of Education and Psychology, explains how identifying our spiritual values is the first step toward inspiring empathy, compassion, and community healing.
Creatures of CULTURE
Culture automatically gets filtered in and out of us while permeating everything that we do. It is like the air we breathe. Understanding culture is essential to understanding ourselves and each other. One issue that can hinder the pursuit of a multicultural perspective in communications is the complexity of defining culture and keeping up with its many dynamics, nuances, and evolutions.
Change of PEACE
Shifting our mindset to see things from other perspectives requires intentionality. Not everyone sees the value in that, which is why I encourage people who struggle in this area to first identify their key spiritual values. Once they have determined their affinity for virtues like kindness, love, compassion, forgiveness, and grace, I help them apply these concepts toward meaningful and nonjudgmental interactions with those who represent different opinions and thoughts from their own.
I have found through my research that a recurring theme among people in need of mental health support is the desire to be accepted. Forming a relationship with another human being who accepts you—despite your past or present circumstances—is critically curative for people.
At FAITH Value
The most effective way to reduce identity-based stigma is to have a genuine interaction with a person in a stigmatized group because that connection can dispel stereotypes and allow for positive experiences. A faith-based lens toward such interactions helps to deepen their meaning, regardless of one’s faith tradition.
Stop, Look, and LISTEN
Listen actively and without judgment and be willing to consider other perspectives as valid. Too often we seem to be listening but will quickly refute the other person’s thoughts as soon as they finish speaking. We also have to be willing to grapple with what emotions these viewpoints muster up for us in our own spirit and mind, and explore why they make us uncomfortable. These exercises can be stressful but they are possible for anyone to accomplish.
Worth the WEIGHT
Social media, remote work, and isolation during the coronavirus pandemic have made it easier than ever for us to stay in our comfort zone, but I encourage everyone to intentionally examine their ideas about people who are different from them with the aim of intercultural competence and multicultural understanding. The work will be heavy and difficult, but what awaits us on the other side are stronger connections, resilience, and a better chance at belonging.