Expand Your Circle of Acquaintances

Remember when you were a kid, maybe even an older kid, and making friends was easy. Anyone you came across was a potential new friend. We didn’t prejudge them, heck, we didn’t even judge them after we knew them. 

Sometimes it turned out we didn’t like them so they didn’t stay friends for long. But that was determined by how we got along with them, not how they looked, dressed or talked. 

It seems like with every passing year it becomes more difficult to make new friends. Research shows most adults haven’t made a new friend in over five years. A friend is defined as someone you willingly share a good deal of time with outside of work experiencing common interests.

That lack of new and varied relationships tends to make us stale. It also makes it difficult for us to accept new concepts and thinking that is different than our own. 

When we do make new friends they tend to be people who think, talk, act, and even look like us. That just solidifies our stale thinking. 

So push yourself out of what people who know about this kind of stuff would call your comfort zone. Push yourself to strike up a conversation with people you normally wouldn’t. The opportunities to do that are limitless if you’re open to them. In line at the grocery store. Waiting at the doctors office. A networking event…speaking of networking events I’m always amazed at people who go to networking events and only talk to people they already know. Stop that!

Don’t worry about looking like a knucklehead, remember, they don’t know you so it really doesn’t matter.

Make yourself listen to different opinions. Really really listen. Then consider them. Don’t automatically dismiss them because they may be different than your own. People with “fresh” thinking are always willing to consider the possibility that they could be wrong. 

Expanding your point of view doesn’t come from knowing more people. It comes from knowing more people who are not your philosophical identical twin. 

Expand your circle of acquaintances until your next social gathering looks like a mini United Nations meeting. You’ll know more and even if your opinions haven’t changed they will be better informed opinions. 

Listening is Free

I’m not sure if anyone has noticed but the world, yep, not only the US but the entire world seems divided right now. Never in my lifetime has the divide between different groups of people been wider.

Even in times of World Wars the divide was not as great as it is right now. Even during the World Wars people agreed on more things than they do today. Governments started those wars, not the people of the countries that were dragged into them.

But today is different. The universal language is one of hate. We throw the word hate around as if it almost has no real meaning. People claim to hate people who hate. “We” all hate all the hating going on these days.

We make slogans and signs about who and what matters. We talk about what must change and who must change. I’m struck by the number of people who “demand” immediate change yet refuse to look in the mirror to see if there is any change they could make personally.

Abraham Lincoln is famous for saying many things but one thing he said might be more applicable today than even the day he said it. When commenting on someone he was not particularly fond of he said, “I do not like that man. I need to get to know him better.”

Lincoln knew what too many people today seemingly have forgotten. That is that we human beings have far more in common than we give ourselves credit for. We can focus on the things that draw us together or we can focus on the things the push us apart. That’s a choice.

But that won’t happen until we do something else that seems to be a thing of the past.

That “thing” is called listening.

I mean real listening. Not reading someone’s social media posts. Not hearing some filtered version of what somebody thinks or what someone said someone said someone said. It’s a sad commentary on the world we live in but if you didn’t hear someone say it yourself then you might want to have some doubts about whether or not it was actually said.

Plus…don’t only listen to people who agree with you! Invite conversations with people who have vastly different views and life experiences than you. Do not think them wrong simply because their views are different than yours. Don’t talk to them, talk with them to determine where your views overlap. Build on that overlap!

I take great comfort from talking with people who share my views and beliefs. I like talking to my family and friends. But whatever growth I experience at this point in life comes from talking with people who frankly might not be my first choice to talk with.

You and I do not have to like the people who see the world differently than we do but we do need to understand how they view their life. We need to understand that if our life experiences were identical to theirs that our views would likely be identical too.

Most of all we need to get to know them better. The more we know about people the less chance there will be that we judge them. I want to say that again….the more you know about someone the less chance there is that you will judge them.

Listen more. Listen with your heart and your mind WIDE open. Listening is free but it just might be that it liberates you from hate. Listening is one of those things that while free it is also priceless!

Listening, really listening to different views could save you great pain. It could save your Country severe turmoil. Listening, truly truly listening to one another might even save the world.