Have you ever asked yourself why you seem to be more receptive to some and not so much to others? Have you ever wondered at work why if an idea came from one colleague it was received differently then if another colleague expressed the same idea? Do you notice that if something is not in our context of understanding or community we tend to brush off the thing or color it with our filters of perception?

I have consulted at work for many years. Every
 organization I’ve worked for has been the same. They know the answer before I’m hired. I interview ten to twenty people and they will all tell me what the problem is and how to fix it. I get brought in to do management consulting or troubleshooting. After I’ve solicited the herd enough that I’m getting the same message over and over again I know I have found the solution. Then I tell the customer what they told me to say.

I sometimes get brought in to start the conversation, give it some context some language and the herd figures it out on their own. Either way I am a mere facilitator. Moving people past their own biasses. Moving the conversation forward by building consensus around and idea or an approach. Giving language to an issue and starting the conversation getting the people unstuck making it safe for them to talk. Then through talking, having the conversation, solve the problem.

I’ve read research that says that people will decide wether your interesting or not, good or bad, worthy for a connection or not, in the first thirty to sixty seconds of interactions. Research, and experience, goes on to show that its very hard or impossible to change that perception. If you decide in the first few moments of meeting someone that they are interesting and compelling they will remain interesting and compelling. If you decide they are a bumbling boob they will remain a bumbling boob. Changing your view of someone would take a monumental event.

There was an article on CNN recently about empathy and peoples empathy for other people in pain. Apparently skin color affects a persona ability to empathize with others who are in pain. If a person has the same skin color you do, then very likely you were able to empathize more with that person. Then if the person who was in pain had a skin color different from your own.

The implications of a hard wired empathy are frightening. Each one of us is or will be disabled at some point in our life. We will all be visibly or invisibly disabled. Let alone issues of gender, color, etc. How will be expect to be treated. I from personal experience can tell you there is a difference. When I hid my disability I did feel like I was treated better but I can tell you that feeling like your being treated better isn’t any sort of compensation for everything you have to go through to hide your disability. Being out, being open with my disability has been interesting something worse somethings so much better but at the end of the day I’m not exhausted, I don’t feel empty because I have had to lie either.

Empathy is something we are going to have to work on. We are all going to have to breath through our emotional responses which seem to be hard wired in and use that grey mass of mush between our ears and think about how we are going to feel about someone. Empathy seems to be a choice. Here hoping we can think about someone before emotionally deciding they are not worth investing in.

About the Author:

Kyle has ocular albinism and has been legally blind since birth. Kyle leads a very active live and is besides his professional career involved in many projects for persons who are different.

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