How do we end all this labeling of one another?

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This popped up on my Facebook feed earlier today and it exemplifies exactly the message I am trying to spread.

How do we stop labeling each other?

We can’t have reasonable conversations, political or otherwise, without some form of mutual respect. Without it we resort to labeling one another, and people who are ready to reach across the political aisle and earnestly try to discuss the issues with one another cannot do so for fear of being labeled and attacked.

We need to find that mutual respect before we can make progress. We need to find out what we have in common before we can productively discuss our differences. Every human being, no matter how different, has something in common with every other human being. We are all humans, one way or another.

So I ask everyone, how can we start connecting with one another and learn the ways which we can respect one another, without falling into our habit of labeling?

Connect – Respect.

Visiting With Visitors – First Episode Post-Mortum

This post is about my podcast Visiting With Visitors where I strike up deep conversations in the French Quarter with complete strangers from all around the world.

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A couple of days ago I went out and talked to strangers, and I have to tell you, as someone who would generally define himself as an introvert, it was some of the most fun I have had. I wandered through the quarter looking for people who seemed like they might be up for a chat and ended up finding two different couples to talk with. One outside of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (Episode 01!) and the other couple in CC’s Coffee House on Royal St. The conversations went very well and I won’t spoil them here, but I will say that I feel like forged a real connection.

I also took some time to enter random shops and strike up conversations with the owners / employees. Found a great spot on Bourbon called Tricou Gifts and the manager, Emmett, was so much fun to talk with. He’s a great guy and his store sells everything touristy that you might want, from hats, to hot sauce, from t shirts to “tobacco” pipes.

Also stuck my head into Graphite Galleries on Royal where I met Taylor, the owner. He was gussying up the place, putting down a fresh paint job and doing some rearranging. I absolutely love the artwork in there. A bit too rich for my blood, but it was a pleasure checking it out and talking with Taylor. (The website doesn’t do it justice. Go there in person!)

I was heading into another shop on Bourbon when someone ran up and told me I looked like prince Eric in my tour guide costume. That’s a first! I ended up talking with her and her two friends (from Africa!) for a good hour and a half. They were moderately drunk and lots of fun.

All in all it was an awesome experience. I know some places aren’t as conducive to conversations with strangers as New Orleans, but I think it’s worth giving it a try, guys!

 

 

Why We Need to Stop Labeling and Start Trusting

“Leaps of greatness require the combined problem-solving ability of people who trust each other.”
― Simon Sinek

That’s the truth of it. We can’t do anything alone, and we can’t make lasting, meaningful progress through the use of force, bullying, or intimidation. We really need to start moving toward trust in this country, and in the world at large. Trust is the bedrock upon which civilizations are formed. Trust that the government has our best interests at heart, trust that our fellow citizens will look out for us and act as good Samaritans. It’s the idea that the people around you will act in good faith toward one another.

How do we build this trust? By throwing away the labels we have plastered all over everyone and every thing: “Trump Supporter,” “SJW,” “Extremist.” None of these labels are helping to unify our nation, in fact they are doing the opposite. Defining a person by a label makes it easy to simply ignore anything they might have to say, because once they are labeled they are no longer a real person. They become a two dimensional caricature of a human being in the mind of the person who labeled them. Everything they say and do is viewed through the distorting lens of the label. Respect is not possible in this situation.

Here’s something we should all remind ourselves of every day: Every human being has something in common with every other human being on the planet. It’s true. All we have to do is connect with someone, find out what that thread of commonality is, and grab on. Build on that common experience and mutual respect will follow. Then use that respect as a baseline for discussion of the more divisive issues.

I pose this challenge to my readers: Go out and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Find out where your common experiences lie and talk it out. It has to start somewhere, so let’s get it started ourselves!

 

 

Talking Shop

“Although there exist many thousand subjects for elegant conversation, there are persons who cannot meet a cripple without talking about feet.” -Ernest Bramah

Why do some of us so enjoy talking about divisive issues? The thrill of the conflict which inevitably arises? The feeling of power that comes from starting said conflict? Or, when talking with like-minded people, is it the good feelings of having your own opinion repeated by others? These feelings are dangerously alluring for some of us. They provide quick hits of dopamine and maybe even adrenaline, but these feelings do not persist and the actions which provide these pleasurable chemical hits can cause lasting damage to relationships and, as we see in the news every day, to the world.

Though having conversations with others is important, equally important is the topic being discussed. Let’s be real here, it’s much more likely that a disabled person would feel more comfortable talking about their disability with a good friend than with a new acquaintance. Humans are creatures of emotion before we are creatures of logic. We respond in predictable ways when our beliefs are challenged by a stranger. Jumping right into sensitive topics such as race, religion, politics and other deeply personal issues is a recipe for defensiveness and conflict.

It’s not helping anything, and it may be making things a good deal worse.

I am not suggesting that we never talk about these divisive issues, I simply am suggesting that we form a connection with our conversation partner before bringing up these subjects.

How do we form a connection? By finding out common interests and talking shop! You both like water skiing? Talk about your latest trip. Both into computers? Talk about your builds. Start by finding something that makes both of you happy and have at it. Make a friend and only then delve into some of these heavier subjects. You’ll listen to each other more carefully. Your defensive walls will be lowered and a dialogue can take place.

Humans are not wired to easily accept a change to their worldview. We are, however, wired to stick to our tribes and view outsiders as less than human. We label them and dismiss them. The internet has made it possible for ALL humans to be a member of the same tribe. It’s time to start making that dream a reality.

How do you think we can make this happen? Where do we start?