We share this planet with 7 billion people. That means there are 7 billion unique stories being written every day. How is your story contributing? Are you proud of it?
One way to give your story impact is by adding diverse characters.
Different perspectives make your story interesting and push you to think beyond yourself. Connecting with others from different backgrounds and cultures reminds you to appreciate and respect the challenges they have endured. Learning how others have overcome adversity gives you courage to do the same.
Hearing different stories builds empathy for your fellow human.
We all experience the same emotions, and we all have the same basic needs. We have all been scared, excited, angry, happy and sad. We all need food, water, and shelter. We are all limited by the laws of nature. How we react to these experiences, however, is unique to each of us.
We value experiences differently.
Your perception, reaction, and emotion from the same event is unique. Something important to me may seem inconsequential to you.
Think about it. If you and your partner go shopping and encounter the same elements, you will remember it differently. Your experience is unique. Your reaction to it is unique. Your feelings about it are unique.
Appreciating these differences is how we build empathy and compassion for one another. It brings us together instead of forcing us to take sides. There are no absolutes in the flawed ways we interpret and communicate. Opinions are never 100% right or wrong.
Society moves in a positive direction when we communicate with the intent to understand different viewpoints. It is time to stop attacking each other based on quick and often inaccurate character judgments.
We collectively rise when we individually value diverse opinions.
Two suggestions for how you can develop a more diverse perspective.
Read - see below for book recommendations
Spend time with different people - see below for an activity on how to do this
This is the easiest way to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, to transport yourself to a different place and time, to immerse yourself into a different culture. Here are a few recent favorites that have done that for me.
Click an image for more of my favorites
How to Add New Characters into Your Story
Grab two blank sheets of paper.
Set a timer for one minute. On the first sheet of paper list all the people who are frequent characters in your story. This is typically parents, siblings, extended family, and school friends. After one minute, set the paper aside.
Reset the timer for another minute. Grab the second sheet of paper and list all the people you frequently encounter but know nothing about. Think about people like classmates you have never interacted with, people at the gym you see often, the cafeteria employee you see every day, the security guard in your building.
Review the first sheet of paper. These are the main characters in your story. Are they improving your story? If not, is it time to reduce or eliminate their impact? You may not have a choice in their involvement, but being aware of their influence is important to acknowledge.
Review the second sheet of paper. Think of ways you can get to know some of these people. Learn their name and start greeting them every day. Ask them a question about their family. Ask them what they enjoy doing outside of work or school. Find out what their favorite treat is and surprise them with it. Most importantly, LISTEN when they are speaking. Listen with the intent to learn and appreciate their story.
Post more suggestions for adding diversity into your life in the comments. Together we can build compassion, empathy, and positive change.