Know Yourself First

by | Sep 19, 2022 | Observations, Peter's Voice

The other day I was talking to a student at one of my alma maters. I volunteer to help undergrads prepare for life after school. I love hearing a little bit about their perspective on school, work, and life. I’m asked all kinds of wonderful questions.

One student asked how to best prepare for dealing with people with different perspectives at work. How can you work with someone that you don’t know or maybe you do know and believe that you have nothing in common?

I thought, ” Wow, such an insightful question. Certainly not one I would have had back in undergrad.”

I had two parts to my answer.

We are much more alike than we are different

The more I learn about people, the more I believe we have more in common than we think. Sure, we may look different and we might align with different things, but we are all human first and foremost.

We all eat, sleep, think, and live much the same way. We seek love and acceptance from ourselves and others. We were all born, had a childhood, and eventually, we will all die.

I’ve found taking time to get to know people and being curious about their experiences, and not just the labels we’ve come to use as stereotypes is the best way to work with others.

Know yourself first

The second part of my answer is to get to know yourself. You are going to meet all kinds of fascinating people. All of whom (if you are patient and curious) you can learn from.

But knowing who you are, what you value, and what you want in life is fundamental to working effectively with others. If you don’t have a solid foundation of who you are, it is easy to turn into someone else.

I’ll share a simple example. Say you are in a boat and trying to help someone who’s fallen overboard. If you don’t have a good strong sense of balance and a solid foundation, you could easily find yourself in the water. In other words, if you are wishy-washy about yourself, anyone can persuade you that their ideas or version of the truth is right.

When we experience life, we get to learn more about who we are as individuals. As we learn more about ourselves, it doesn’t mean we have to become rigid and unbending in our thinking and actions. It does mean, however, that when we are being pulled away from who we are, we know it.

If we are curious and patient with those around us, we might shift some of our foundations, but we’ll do so with intention and become more of who we know we can be.

It’s all about choosing you!

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