Some months ago the Megan Elizabeth Morris of Upmarket approached me about writing an article about gratitude — always a worthy subject, and certainly connected to finding why. It was the November issue of another Squidoo magazine, connected inextricably to Thanksgiving.
Why I didn’t write that article is the point of this one.
First, the background: For various reasons which aren’t germane to this conversation, I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Megan pointed out that the article certainly didn’t have to have a holiday bent. I knew, though, that almost no one would look beneath the surface, and would instead comment on my “Thanksgiving article.” And that, dear readers, is why I’m posting this now and not November.
Iceberg, Meet Titanic
Our sense of identity is so inherent and obvious that it’s a rare person who can experience another’s perspective without instinctively looking for ourselves in it. We cruise the sea of our connections, knowing we’re icebergs with depths others don’t see.
Then we barge our Titanic selves into the unknowns below the surfaces of everyone around us.
Be Like Me
It’s human nature to search for patterns, for sameness. When we don’t find it, we create it, becoming more like our peer group, even physically.
Before we take the steps to become like our peers, though, our unconscious takes a shortcut, as is its wont. It simply sees others as if they were modified versions of us. That perception is easy to make, and, unless challenged, easy to accept.
When the human brain contains as many neural connections as there are stars in the known universe, any two of us being anything but superficially alike is preposterous.
Awareness: We See What We’re Looking For
Playing off our inherent need and ability to find patterns, our brains are wired to see what we expect to see—even if that’s the answer to a question, an answer we don’t know yet.
When you’re reading a book for information, you’ll get much more out of it if you prepare your mind by writing a list of questions you expect this book to answer. Since I’ve started that process with my business reading, I’m more focused so I’m getting more specific usable information.
What if we prepared ourselves for life like that?
What if, the next time you read an article online, met someone at a network mixer, chatted them up at the coffee shop or supermarket queue, you prepared yourself for every human interaction by asking yourself, “How are they different from me, and what can I learn from it?”
We’re good at finding similarities. Too good, sometimes.
Prime yourself to see differences. Revel in them.
We both might learn something.