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The Importance of Understanding Others

In 1983, news anchor Howard Beale spoke the immortal line in the movie Network “I’m mad as hell, and I am not going to take it anymore.” I agree with the character, and that’s what today’s note is about.  

I have been working in the financial services industry for almost forty years. A difficult lesson I learned early in my career was not to prejudge someone by their reputation or how they may look. You may say I was just lucky, but throughout my career, I may have never met someone who I would categorize as bad.  

I believe one of the reasons I have enjoyed the wonderful career I have is my opportunity to hear the stories people share with me. It is those stories that allow me to understand why that person is who they are.  

Hearing about their childhood and their parents, maybe they served in the military, their relationships, or what they experienced in the work environment, those are the building blocks that make that person who they are. I am humbled knowing people are willing to share these details with me. The stories people share also provide me with insight as to why they may behave or think the way they do. 

I have learned the instant judging of others, which seems to be a very popular behavior today, is going to lead me/us down the path of being narrowminded, while adding to the amount of negativity already pervading too much of life and not allowing me to try and understand why things are the way they are.  

I think we do this because it's human nature to want to make sense of the world around us, and sometimes the easiest way to do that is to compartmentalize people into neat little boxes. 

That great purveyor of information, the Sunday Comics, had a great Pearls before Swine strip by Stephan Pastis on July 9th. I have included a link: https://replica.startribune.com/infinity/article_popover_share.aspx?guid=4a9a120d-1043-7fa3-da9c-365bd647db1c 

I am constantly amazed at how clever someone can be in telling a story that is poignant and entertaining. 

When we judge others, we are essentially saying that we know better than them. We are saying that we have the right to label them and to make assumptions about their lives. But the truth is, we don't know anything about them. We don't know what they've been through, what they're going through, or what they're capable of. 

That's why it's so important to try to understand others before we judge them. It's not always easy, but it's always worth it. When we take the time to understand someone else's perspective, we open ourselves up to a whole new world of possibilities. We learn to be more tolerant, more compassionate, and more understanding. 

Here are a few tips for understanding others: 

  • Ask questions. One of the best ways to learn about someone is to ask them questions. Ask them about their life, their experiences, and their beliefs. The more you know about them, the better equipped you will be to understand their perspective. 
  • Listen actively. When someone is talking to you, really listen to what they are saying. Don't just wait for your turn to talk. Pay attention to their words, their body language, and their tone of voice. 
  • Put yourself in their shoes. Try to imagine what it would be like to live in someone else's shoes. What would their challenges be? What would their hopes and dreams be? The more you can empathize with someone, the better you will understand them. 
  • Be patient. It takes time and effort to build understanding. Don't expect to become an expert on someone's life overnight. Just keep asking questions, listening actively, and putting yourself in their shoes. Over time, you will start to gain a deeper understanding of them. 

The thing we too often miss is that unless the world is a better place for everyone, it will not be a better place for anyone. 

Wishing all of you the opportunity to live the good life. If we can help, just drop us a note.