The “Other”

I have come to the conclusion, via age and experience, that it is more productive to surround myself with like-minded people.  It makes life easier and more enriching, I think.  Social media allow us to do this with the click of a button as we friend, follow and link with people who are like us in some way.  Our conversations are stimulating and energised but are they challenging in terms of seeking to understand the “other”?  Has social media allowed us to avoid other points of view in favour of celebrating our own.  What are the risks with this on a personal level, on a national level and on a global level?

Elizabeth Lesser, in a thought-provoking TED talk called “Take the Other to Lunch” looks at her own life as part mystic (grace), part warrior (grit)  The latter seeks to get on with things and focuses on the now whilst the former asks “what are we missing?”  She wonders if the circle we draw around ourselves (our family, friends, followers) is too small and too similar and may contribute towards the “demonisation” or “otherisation” of those with different viewpoints to our own.

Her talk inspires us to take someone whose point of view makes “smoke come out of our ears” to lunch so we can find out what is really in each others’ hearts.  When Elizabeth Lesser did this herself (she, being left-wing, invited a right-wing supporter) she found out the generic labels that are assigned to others do not represent those people as individuals.  She does argue that the intention of taking the other to lunch is not to change their worldview or to expect differences to melt away just to meet them in a neutral space and explore.

This had made me rethink my own point of view.  I don’t know if I’m ready to take an “other” to lunch (my views are pretty strong) just yet but once I work on my ability to not get defensive and to just listen I might give it a go. 

Who would you take to lunch and why?

Are all your social networks like you in some way?

What would you need to do to prepare for a lunch with the “other”?