Kindness and Empathy are of the Essence of Building Strong Relationships by Grace
We have all had experiences where working with others did not go so well and we could not understand someone else’s point of view. I get it, it would be much easier working with someone who is similar to you and you would just agree with everything, but the truth is, the beautiful thing about working in a group is having the end product not just being one idea, but all ideas. A force bigger than one is powerful, no matter what the end product looks like. In my opinion, it is worth it if in the end your group feels proud of what you have accomplished together. This does not deny that it is still hard working with others who are different from you, it just proves that working with someone who is different is essential. I have learned this through my learning journey at my school, Blue Sky. There, we were taught for one whole week on how to work with someone who is different from you. In this blog, I will be answering this question through my experiences in this learning journey. If it had to come down to one word of what I would want you to take away on how to work with others, it would be “empathy.” I believe that kindness is at the middle of everything and understanding each other will make you and your group go far in what your end goal is.
When working with someone who is different from you, it is Imperative to understand their perspective/point of view. I am not going to lie, it is so frustrating trying to explain something that someone else does not understand. An example of this is, at our school, we had a workshop about collaboration with a twist. There was a drawing and a designated person of each group had to try to explain the drawing to the rest of their group mates who had not yet seen it. Then, the group all had to recreate the drawing except for the designated person. With my group, our designated person got so frustrated because our group could not comprehend what she was saying. We were lacking understanding and empathy. We did not take the time to hear out her point of view and instead we tried drawing what we thought we had to draw. Perspective helps us hear everyone’s point of view, and enriches our end goal.
Drawing we had to recreate
“Openmind, Open Heart”
In our everyday lives, we enter new social situations all the time, and often when we do, there are already formed friendships and groups. This is often, in our society, where exclusion and loneliness is formed. We often misinterpret based on the way people present their friendships as an exclusive ‘you can not come in’ way. We can not change the friendships that have already been formed, but we can change the way people present the friendships.
When working with people who are different, it is important to open yourself up through your body language and your words. For example, when talking to someone in a social situation, don’t just face the person but face the group to open others up to the conversation. Social exclusion has profound impacts on the all together group and will often set the stage for cliques. I have left several extracurriculars because of feeling excluded. Closing yourself off to others can also make you miss out on a lot of awesome friendships. Showing empathy and opening yourself up will help you not only create a more inclusive environment, but a stronger group.
“Diversity and equivalence”
A huge part of being human is having different skill sets, different interests, and different dreams. When working in a group it is very important that everyone is on the same footing and contributing equal amounts so each skill set can be activated. For example, If we are working in a group and the topic is numeracy and one of the members of the team is really good with arithmetic, that skill set that he or she has developed would be super useful to our group. It is important that you are mindful of how much you speak and how much others speak so we can get all ideas heard for the best outcome.
(This is a picture of me collaborating with some people we met at the Parkdale Food Center, despite our age gap we were still working together and as a result, we made a delicious meal!)
In a recent workshop, I was with the same people I was in the drawing workshop with and from that start, we did not have high hopes for the group. I think this is why we ended up not doing so well because we set ourselves up to fail. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “It’s not about the destination, it's about the journey” and I think our journey that we took in the workshop was not perfect, yet it represented our destination perfectly so I guess in some ways, it was. The object of the activity was to create a snow sculpture with our group except some of your group mates has “barriers” they had to build with. For example, I could only walk backwards. For most of the workshop, people (including me) were just watching this one person take the lead and build the structure. It got messy. I tried starting to build on to the structure but I did not communicate what I was going to do with my other group mates. Snow balls were thrown, structures were broken.
Needless to say this all started because we, right from the start, did not incorporate others into our group because it was hard to get around their challenges. The end product was only one person's work and creativity. The structure didn’t ended up looking like how we planned it and I think It could have looked so much better if we all worked together, and all of our voices would be heard. Even if I product ended up being much worse, we would still all feel a sense of pride and accomplishment working together.
At Blue Sky, we always try to give “recognitions” to one another. This means that we recognize someone for doing something positive by vocally appreciating their specific traits. This will help the learner continue to do this same thing and push him or herself to do better. I need to feel valued and recognized when I am working in a group or with someone because this is what will drive me to do better. It also makes me feel so good and reassures me that I am doing all the things I can do. Recognizing someone for their action will uplift them to be the best person they can be.
What I hope you got out of this was how crucial it is to show empathy and kindness when working with someone who is different than you. Feeling accepted and valued is probably the best thing that could ever happen to you and you can create this for other people in your working, or home environment. Kindness is of the essence of building connections and making the world a better place.
“Kindness is a gift everyone can afford to pay”- Unknown