April 24, 2018 Blog No Comments

We just had an incredible week of cultural exchange that filled us with joy and the promise of more exciting collaborations to come. It has become clear that we have found how to easily break down walls – personally and professionally between people and cultures. I think this is important and worth exploration.

Last week we hosted Gideon Alorwoyie, our Ghanaian friend, and his Afrikania drumming and dance troop. We have been doing this for years, but now it seems especially important given the political climate in our country. We have also started a non-profit with this as a goal – to enhance collaborative exchanges between different cultures.

Why is this important and how can you easily do this in any setting you may find yourself in? Whether it is in personal relationships or business interactions, learning how to break out of your small social or professional circle is important for your growth.  Here’s four ways to make it easy:

HAVE A CLEAR INTENTION TO BREAK DOWN WALLS

When we find ourselves with  people we don’t know or who are different from us, we often become mired in awkwardness. In the silence of not knowing, we have only our own thoughts, first impressions or rumor to go on. It’s a dangerous place, for it is that lack of first-hand information that creates the walls. And it is the walls that create judgement, prejudice and ultimately the violence between us.

There is an easy way to change this – it starts with the intention to understand and to get to know someone. For when you do that, the firsthand knowledge will change everything. As you form a relationship with someone, you move from suspicion and first impressions to knowing.

It’s in the relationship that walls are broken down.

BE INTERESTED AND OPEN

How to do you make a friend? Everyone is different, but isn’t it pretty simple? You act interested, you ask questions, you get their story and you learn about them. Taking this first step shows that you are open and willing to know someone as an individual. Then there’s reciprocity involved as you also share yourself with the same openness.

Getting over a wall between you and others means building a bridge. The simple act of showing interest and being open serves to create that stepping stone. The hard part is over. There is often relief and joy at making this simple connection.

Approaching someone with a willingness to get to know them is your stepping stone over any wall.

FIND COMMON GROUND

As in any friendship, you search for common ground. You like the same things, there is something you can learn from each other, there are similar interests. The more you are interested, the more you discover there is to know. It is usually a process of discovery that becomes intrinsically rewarding.

This is the part I love. I’m always amazed at how we are more alike than different. I am always interested in how our humanity is the same when you look for ways to relate. In this exchange, there was someone to teach me to cook African food, someone who showed me social media promotion techniques, and there was someone who is a life coach too. Despite being from different cultures, we have similar interests and we have much to share.

When we learn we are similar, there is no longer a wall.

LOOK FOR THEIR GIFTS

The final piece to breaking down a wall between people in any setting is finding what you can admire. What are their gifts that are different from yours?

When you appreciate the gifts people bring from their culture, a different office at your work, or a another part of your town or country, it expands you. You now are growing and learning too.  My husband was delighted to have new musicians with exceptional talent to work with – our community and his work will all benefit. When you honor someone for what they offer, you honor yourself too.

We all have something to give the world – honor the gifts that are different from yours.

In this week of cultural exchange, I have deepened relationships that expand my understanding of other parts of our world and country.  I have discovered how richly talented another culture can be and what we can learn from it. I have moved past superficial impressions to respect and admiration.  All this is the product of initiating the easy intention of wanting to know. When you’re open to others, you find common ground and you can appreciate the gifts that they offer. This process is exponentially expanding my ability to be a better coach and counselor and my husband’s world of music.  When you decide to break down walls, we all benefit.

Is breaking down walls a topic of relevance for you? Do you want to find stepping stones to expand your world and the people in it? Do you want to bridge gaps between you and others in your field of work or in your personal life? This is something my Transformation Life Coaching and Counseling can help provide. See my website www.spectrumtransformation.com for more information and reach out to me with my Free Consultation button. I’d love to hear from you.

Written by Connie Milligan, LCSW
If there is anything I’ve expressed that speaks to you, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at my email, connie [at] conniemilligan [dot] com