In my Perspectives piece last month, I didn’t give you the whole story about my idea of “spiritual shape-shifting” for healing a splintered society. Shape-shifting is the ability of mythical creatures to change into another person, creature, gender or species. When I add “spiritual” to this idea, I mean being intentionally curious and respectful as you walk in the shoes of another person whose shoe size doesn’t fit you, so to speak.
So how might this happen? If you can set aside for a moment your firmly held beliefs and perspectives, and think, “I wonder what experiences, exposures to ideas, and relationships helped shape this person who is different from me?” In a conversation with this person, ask neutral questions to elicit the person’s story. Use journalistic inquiries like: what, when, where, how – but not why, which puts people on the defensive. Conversations about childhood, favorite pets, taking risks, adventures, having hobbies are great non-threatening places to start.
Walking in their shoes might be taken almost literally. As you listen, imagine you are that person, feeling their emotions, their intensity, their thought patterns, and you might gain some insights to better understand them – and yourself!
Having such conversations over time, you will likely discover some common ground, even if you agree to disagree on some issues.
Respect for differences, asking open-ended questions, and finding common values are important ingredients for healing a splintered society. Try spiritual shape-shifting and see what happens!