Every week, inevitably some of my clients ask for help with relationship conflicts. The reasons for the conflicts are diverse and numerous, but most of the time it boils down to one salient truth: two people are very different and have not done enough to embrace and acknowledge their differences. They keep trying to fit themselves and each other into a comfortable mold, ultimately doing both individuals a disservice. Miscommunication is usually the first symptom of this; when two people think they on the same page when they really aren’t, miscommunication is inevitable.
In my work with couples, I will often say, “To resolve a conflict, it takes only one of you to reach out, listen, understand and empathize with the other.” Once one person bridges the gap, acknowledges the other person’s unique experience, and names the differences between them, then the other person usually softens and opens up (provided he or she wants to truly connect). Then both people listen, hear, and understand each other in a new way.
This experience in the personal realm applies to teams, communities, cultures, nations, and the world. When we fail to understand and value our uniqueness and differences, we misunderstand and judge each other, thus creating the seeds of discrimination. Communication breaks down, we struggle to find right aligned action, and suddenly peace seems impossible.
I observe that we, as a species, need a radical perspective shift on how we understand self and other. Our brains seem to be wired to assume that we are all similar when we really are not. The reality is that no two people have the same brain patterns, life experience, psychology, epigenetics, genetics, etc. Yet we continue to struggle to embrace our uniqueness and differences.
The gap between perception and reality is more acute than ever before. With technology of all kinds, we are not contained within a tribe of a few hundred or thousand people who share a culture, values, smaller gene pool, etc. We have a tribe of 7 billion. It seems that a necessary skill to relate to our new human tribe – including the individuals closest to us – is to embrace diversity, uniqueness, and differences in a new way.
In my work, I’ve distilled the process of understanding others into these three pillars that are a foundation for other communication and relationship skills. These three pillars are:
1. Embrace the immense creativity of God.
If you spend even a few minutes studying biology and the diversity of life on our planet, you will see that Creator/Source/Universe is immensely and mind-blowingly creative. We are still just beginning to understand the diversity on our planet and in the universe around us. When you look at humanity through this lens of the infinite creativity of Divine Source, you will come to expect and invite differences. Creation will always have new ways to surprise you.
2. Honor and celebrate uniqueness and differences
Creation wanted to express itself uniquely as you. There is no other being in the universe exactly like you. Accepting how you are unique is just accepting what is. Trying to argue with your uniqueness is like trying to tell an oak tree that it should be a palm tree.
Once you accept the uniqueness of you, you are more able to generously acknowledge the uniqueness of each being around you. When you can honor the uniqueness then it’s more comfortable to talk about differences.
Thank goodness we are all different. As we each have unique experiences, perspectives, and skills, there is a way in which we need each other and can learn from each other. Our differences create a new ground for us to dance with each other. We can’t each be everything, but together we are all everything. When we realize how much we need our differences, we will embrace each other in a much kinder way.
3. Celebrate resonance
There’s an illusion that safety lies in continued, sustained resonance. The truth is that emotional safety comes from being at peace with differences and uniqueness so that you can comfortably flow in and out of resonance. Embracing differences empowers us to embrace resonance. The differences make the resonance that much sweeter. Sometimes resonance can only be revealed through clear understanding of differences.
We can’t resonate with each other 100% of the time. We learn from and about one another by dancing between resonance and differences. When we invite both then we receive the best of each other and the gifts of human community.
With these three pillars in place, it is infinitely easier to then employ skills of relating and communicating, including but not limited to:
- Healthy curiosity
- Learning to listen deeply, fully, and completely
- Compassion with Truth and Wisdom
These three pillars are part of a life long practice. We’re going to continue to learn about each other in a growing tribe of 7 billion. I expect the learning to be endless and humbling for all of us. I enjoy going on this journey with you!
How does embracing your uniqueness change your relationship to others? Does it make you feel more compassionate towards yourself?
How does embracing differences change how you see others, yourself, your relationships?
How does greater understanding of self & other open you to greater compassion?