“Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,
From a young age, I was taught that we should make an effort to get to know people. All people. No matter what our first impression of them is. And when I read The Little Prince for the first time as a child, it reinforced the lesson that we should not be so quick to judge others. The narrator teaches us that if we spend time with caterpillars (the people we don’t immediately connect with) and get to know them, they eventually turn into butterflies. That is to say, that if you spend time with people and try to understand them, something beautiful can happen, whether that’s the beginning of a good friendship, or an important lesson being learned.
Everybody has something to teach us, whether it’s their level of knowledge on a particular subject, their life experiences or just their behaviour, body language and the way in which they interact with others. They can inspire us, motivate us and lift us. They can support us and offer us a new perspective on life. Or, maybe, they can serve as an example of what not to say or do. The two greatest teachers on life are our experiences, and the people with whom we come into contact with.
All of this only becomes possible if we approach others with an open mind. Which is easier said than done in the digital age. How often do we “google” a new acquaintance’s name or search social media outlets for them, only to form a judgement on who they are before we have actually taken the time to get to know them as a person? Even in this day and age, people are judged according to their political views, lifestyle choices, sexual orientation and so much more. None of which is a true reflection of who they are as a person and what they could bring to your life if you only put your judgements aside and really got to know them. It could be the case that, in getting to know each other, you are the one who will make a positive difference in their life. And isn’t that why we are all here? To make a positive impact on the lives of others around us? We are social creatures, so it’s only natural for us to lift and support each other.
Too often, though, we surround ourselves with people who share our beliefs and interests. People who think and act like us, and understand us. It’s the safe and easy choice. Given that we like the same things and think and act in similar ways, we know what we are getting with these people. No differences of opinion or challenging conversations. We can just be ourselves without the fear of being judged. As a result, we label ourselves and others, before joining the group which resonates the most with us. With everyone in isolated groups, it makes it harder to get to know others outside our spheres and share ideas and opinions.
In business, these isolated groups are called silos, and organisations are working hard hard to break these down in order to encourage better communication and co-operation between departments and colleagues. In much the same way, we need to work to rid society of these social bubbles, and encourage more people from all walks of life to get to know each other.
We all say that we want to better ourselves and improve the quality of our lives, so why are we overlooking one of the best teachers of all, the people whose interests and experiences are different from ours?!
Judge less. Communicate more. You’ll be surprised just how much this can enrich your life.