If we really want to understand …
The businessman boarded a Sunday train in the heart of New York City. Content with his newspaper, the man simply wanted to be left alone — a feat that proved impossible.
Nearby and with no apparent regard for his wishes, five loud, rambunctious young children were jumping and running around, wild animals let loose. Their father was paying no attention at all. He seemed to not care about their unruly activities or their impact on other passengers.
The businessman asked the father somewhat tersely if maybe he would control his children. The father turned to him slowly and said apologetically that the family had just left a hospital where the children’s mother had died that afternoon. He said the kids didn’t know how to handle it — and neither did he.
As that sunk in, the businessman, Stephen R. Covey, had just experienced something that would change his perspective forever — and help lead to the writing of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” which went on to sell tens of millions of copies in dozens of languages.
One of those habits, No. 5, is this: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
It is far easier said than done. But when it is done, when it becomes a good habit with more and more people, it can change the world.
How many of us really try to understand someone else’s perspective before succumbing to the urge to gush out our own? How much of what we think we know is based only partially on fact, supplemented by our own experiences and biases, and subject to dramatic change based on just a little more information or insight?
We’ll give you an example from today’s Letters to the Editor. A writer who might very well be speaking for a majority of North Idahoans points out what he perceives as rampant hypocrisy, in this case, from the left. Just one example he cites is the changing of the name of Squaw Bay on Lake Coeur d’Alene “because it supposedly offended North Idaho Indians.”
There’s more to it, much more to it, than that, as we learned years ago during a meeting with Dave Matheson of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe. Until that meeting, we had no clue that “squaw” literally means the four-letter “c”-word, a dehumanizing reference to a woman as being no more than a vagina. Matheson had tears in his eyes — real pain. Real humiliation. It is not political correctness or bowing to minority interests that led to the name change, but fixing a wrong and restoring a semblance of human dignity.
We’re willing to bet that most Press readers today had no clue of the story within this story. We also believe almost everyone will agree that the term is unwelcome in our shared lexicon of beloved local place names.
If we seek first to understand someone else before we lay out our position and defend it ferociously, maybe some of the barriers that bitterly divide us will come tumbling down.