Monday, August 20, 2007

The Shoe is on the Other Foot.

I am a voracious reader. I read a variety of books, magazines and newspapers-from treasures to trash. I tend to remember bits and pieces of things that I read and then pull them out of my brain when I need them.

This happened yesterday as we wandered through the Zoo. My daughter and I were accompanied by our Shanghai-born friend, Ming and her two daughters, Lulu and Isabella. As I walked around-the sole Caucasian in our little group-people we interacted with thought Ming was the girls' mother and I was...well, I am not sure that I what was. And, I felt self-concious. And no, I am not happy that I had that kind of reaction, but it was there, none the less.

I was reminded of Steven Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Unfortunately, I can only remember one of the seven habits-but that is another story! One of the seven habits that Covey considers essential is the ability to see the world through someone else's point of view in order to work, communicate and otherwise interact effectively with her.

The story he used to illustrate this took place one Sunday morning when he was in the subway in NYC. He recounts being annoyed as a father sat on the subway while his unruly children created some havoc. Covey and the family were alone in the car, so Covey decided to approach the father-partly out of concern for their safety and partly to restore peace and quiet to the subway car.

Covey got an unexpected reaction to his complaint. The father told him that the children's mother had died an hour ago and he thought it was better for them to let off some steam than to discipline them.

Of course, there was no way Covey could have known what the man was thinking-anymore that we know what someone is thinking. Covey's point is that we have to consider that the other person's point of view can be quiet different from what we think it might be. Before we go off half-cocked, he suggests we consider other reasons that a person may behave in a particular way.

So, here I was-a minority in the group and getting a small taste of what my daughter might deal with. People told Ming that she was lucky to have three beautiful daughters etc, etc., etc. I found myself on the outside looking in-and I didn't like it. I am pretty secure with my role as my daughter's mother so, I didn't do anything particularly stupid (I hope) to 'claim' my daughter as "mine", but I did get a real idea of what she might feel like when she is the only Asian in the crowd.

It is experiences like this, which remind me that we aren't-and shouldn't be-color blind-but that we need to be sensitive to the biases that we bring to every situation. We really can't assume that we know the score-unless we really know the score. We need to consider that we might be wrong about people and situations.

It also reminds me that if I was aware-and even a tad uncomfortable-as the outsider then I might have an insight into how to help my daughter when she is situations that make her an 'outsider'.

For me, the experience was short-lived and I knew it would end when we left the environment. I hope that my daughter will have the same experience.

For today, I am going to keep Covey's ideas on the front burner-maybe later, I will go figure out the other six habits.

Today is the day not to make assumptions about people, places and things. If I can do it today, then maybe I can continue it until it truly becomes a habit.

With respect,

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