5 Tips for Appreciating Differences
We are all beautifully unique and exceptionally different. We often surround ourselves with like-minded individuals, but sometimes it’s more challenging to find those people in our current environment. Think of neurodivergent individuals who might be diagnosed with autism, ADHD, or related conditions or perhaps marginalized individuals such as the transgender community. How often do these individuals feel heard or understood? How often do they feel part of a group or respected for their differences? Although we are further in inclusion, there is a long road ahead for us before fully understanding, accepting, and appreciating differences in people is everywhere. Barnhart and Dierickx (2021) emphasize the importance of open and respectful communication across neurotypical and neurodivergent groups.
Change or adapting to a new way of thinking can be difficult. There is only that much we can do to speed up the process, but here are some strategies for appreciating differences to try.
Top 5 tips for appreciating differences in people:
Think like a child. Look at the world through the lens of a child – with admiration and excitement. We are all different, and there is so much to learn from each other.
Loving stories. Who doesn’t like a good book, series, or movie? We, humans, are like lifetime movies. We have stories and experiences to share and look forward to. There are events that we can speak about and ask questions to another. If you talk with someone, see their life as a new adventure that you know nothing about, and they are the true expert. You are there as an active observer. You can ask questions and learn about their experiences – you are connecting with another on a deeper level.
Listen to hear. We want to share our stories, but sometimes we fall into the trap of listening to respond instead of listening to hear. Try and pause before responding. Ask a question about what the person said. You might be surprised how much the person will continue to share if you provide them with a chance.
Processing time. We need to also pause before answering for fearing an awkward silence. Many people require a longer processing time—especially people who might feel judged at times by others and vulnerable. Give them time, show them that you are there and want to hear what they have to say. The silent moments can include smiles and nods rather than a quick verbal response.
Embrace it. You have now opened the door not only for a person that might be ostracized by society but also for you – to learn from this person and their experiences. You have grown as a person, and this is worth celebrating.
We are all beautifully different, and we have so much to learn from and with one another. This is an exciting journey to be on and I feel honored in sharing my journey with you.
Barnhart AJ, Dierickx K. Cultures and cures: neurodiversity and brain organoids. BMC Med Ethics. 2021 May 17;22(1):61. doi: 10.1186/s12910-021-00627-1. PMID: 34001098; PMCID: PMC8130283.