By Renita Collins
“What A Wonderful World” is a song by Louis Armstrong that talks about the beauty of diversity and friendly people. Often these simple aspects of life are taken for granted. However, it is refreshing to see an awakening of deference and unity amid the current climate of antagonism and division. People are seeking to understand those who are outside of their racial, ethnic, and social contexts. But in order to effectively connect, we must seek to see, hear, and understand one another. Here are five ways to connect with someone outside your comfort zone.
Dismantle all preconceived notions.
When you encounter the girl with multiple piercings or the teenager wearing the hoodie or the man with tattoos from head to toe, what is your first thought? What is your first reaction? Do you make judgments based on what you see, or do you look deeper to understand? That person’s life experience is likely quite different from yours; however, it does not mean that they are any less worthy of deference. Dismantling preconceived notions will allow you to clearly SEE others, then subsequently hear and understand them.
Put on their glasses.
Every human being sees life through his or her own unique pair of “glasses.” Glasses represent their experience, culture, environment, and personality among other things. Glasses determine how a person gives and receives information. For example, a person with a “dominant” personality and a person with a “steady” personality will not understand each other until they attempt to put on the other’s glasses. Seek first to understand before seeking to be understood.
Find common ground.
The Muslim mother and the Christian mother who live next door to each other have this in common: they love their children. The black man and the white man who are co-workers have this in common: they want to provide for their family. We all have more in common than we realize. The problem is that we tend to focus more on our differences. When we focus more on commonality, connection becomes imminent.
Acknowledge their passion or grief.
Passion and grief are two of the strongest emotions one can experience. Within our nation’s current narrative, we are witnessing exponential passion and grief. We see passion for social justice and grief for prevailing social injustice. Acknowledgement says I care. Acknowledgement is the first step to change.
Invite them into your space.
When was the last time you shared a meal, a meaningful conversation, or an invite to your home with someone outside your comfort zone? Inviting someone into your “space” conveys a message of respect and value for the other person.
I challenge you to look for ways to authentically connect with others who are outside your comfort zone. The more we connect with others, the more our lives are enriched. Start today!
About the Author
Renita Collins currently serves as an executive pastor alongside her husband, Frank Collins Jr., who is the senior pastor of Breath of Life Christian Church in Harper Woods, Michigan. She is a mother of two and the author of two books, 31 Days of Focus and Persevere. The Collins family resides in St. Clair Shores, Michigan.