Tolerance (Part 2)
I have rarely been on the receiving end of intolerance, that I know of. When I have, it was more often dismissal that I felt rather than something like hostility. I feel that dismissal (or something like it) is a much more common response than personal attack. But I have lost a couple of friendships.
I do know that I have shown a lack of tolerance at times in the past, but I am changing now. Sometimes people take us by surprise, maybe by something they say, or how they dress, or something else about them. But remember, these are things they DO, not who they are. Some people do struggle with things that are more central to another person’s identity: race, sexual orientation, religion, even level of education or personality features.
Since tolerance doesn’t come naturally to everyone (or, I would venture to say, to anyone), how do we learn this skill and what are some ways we can put it into practice in our daily lives? Glad you asked! Here are few ideas I came up with, for starters:
1. BE POLITE. If you do nothing else, at least speak to the other person as you would to a friend, or (if you don’t know them well) a professional. For example, if it’s a person’s manner of dress that bothers you, pretend that they are dressed professionally behind the counter at a bank, and they are giving you money. Eventually, it won’t matter as much to how other people are dressed (or whatever it is that you struggle with), but this can work until we get there.
2. PRETEND YOU ARE LOOKING INTO A MIRROR. Whatever you’re about to say, is it something that you would like to hear from someone else? Would you like someone else you look at you with that kind of facial expression? Would you like to hear something in that tone of voice? Seeing a “mirror” is a powerful way to remember this.
3. FIND SOMETHING IN COMMON WITH THE OTHER PERSON. This is always a possibility, even if it’s something as simple as a like or dislike such as a certain type of food.
Now, not every situation requiring tolerance is going to be face-to-face conversation. Sometimes it will be conversations with friends, things we say or write, or even just attitudes we have. But let’s treat people with tolerance whether it’s face-to-face, in our own heads, or something in between. If we can start with just these three steps, then we will be on our way.