From the River to the Sea – A Guide to Knowing Others
The society we live in values diversity more than ever before.
Have you ever become overly sensitive or confused about your words or actions hurting someone else because you are too eager to respect others?
I have a word of advice for you.
The someone you picture in your mind may look as narrow as a river, but it is actually as wide as the ocean.
We often use a word to describe someone’s characteristics or features.
Complex – Simple
Smart – Stupid
Emotionally unstable – Stable
Collective – Individual
Pessimistic – Optimistic
Extroverted – Introverted
When we meet someone for the first time, we tend to unconsciously categorize their characteristics, that is, to recognize them by placing them in a certain category. I believe this is natural and appropriate because we need to have a general idea of what kind of person that individual is.
Recently, it is becoming more popular to use the results of the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) personality assessment in self-introductions. Psychological personality tests are intriguing and can easily indicate what kind of person you and others are. It may be useful in confirming compatibility and determining job aptitude.
Similarly, classifying people as extroverts or an introverts is something we do unconsciously as we recognize our role in a group and choose our means of communication with others.
Categorization helps us pick out and organize what is important from the myriad of information we receive.
However, I believe that if we always use the same categories, we not only prevent ourselves from understanding others deeply but also lose the opportunity to experience new values in the interaction with people.
What we call now is an interaction of various factors, such as the situation and environment at the time, age, or life events.
I am usually emotionally stable, but in the years after saying goodbye to a close friend or pet, I became sensitive to even small events and burst into tears.
I like talking to people, but sometimes, I feel tired and want to be alone.
I am usually optimistic, but when I was thinking about something during dinner, I suddenly felt worried about my parents.
Someone’s personality, to some extent, is constant throughout his or her life.
However, we are creatures that can change with time and circumstances. When we have been with someone for a long time, we tend to think we know everything about them and predict their behavior, saying, "This person has always been this way..." Then we may not be able to notice small changes in that person. In such cases, if we slowly remove the categories that we have applied to the person, we may be able to accept him or her as a whole. Furthermore, we will be able to confirm that we respect each other, which will lead to more comfortable communication.
In this rapidly changing world, flexibility is required.
Flexibility normally applies to responses in situations, but I think what is required of us is to apply to the lens through which we see people.
We are all different.
No one person grows up in the same environment, experiencing the same things.
The more we learn about a person, the more we will have the opportunity to leave the narrow confines of categories and accept the breadth of him or her. Just as from the river to the sea, open your hearts...
Written by Luna
Translated by Ann Oe
Edited by Emiru Okada
Graphics by Satomi Shikano