Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Conversation #8 ~ What is my unique contribution to the whole? (pp. 116-125)

On page 121 of Turning to One Another, Margaret Wheatley says:
"I'm sure you've had the experience of stereotyping someone because of their appearance, and then being surprised when they didn't fit that judgment."
Oh, yeah!  We moved into a new house on the day before my twin daughters started kindergarten, so I didn't know the other children or their parents.  When the first little girl visited our house one afternoon, I told her mom I'd take her home.  She was an awkward child — and very excited about her new bed that she wanted to show us.  I drove to her neighborhood, following the directions her mother had given me, and let the little girl point out which house was hers as reached the corner of her street.  Expecting a small bungalow, I smiled as I glanced where she was pointing.  Taken aback, I looked again — up and up and up — one, two, three floors high, with a curved drive at the front entrance, branching off to ... was that servants' quarters back there?  A maid answered the door, and the girl's gracious mother encouraged us to go up the curved stairs in the entry, so the excited girl could show us her new canopy bed.  The whole kindergarten class with parents was later invited to visit the family's horse farm an hour's drive into the country.  Oh, how very wrong my stereotype had been!

What stereotypes have we been guilty of?  Do you stereotype people by nationality?  By looks?  By how they dress?  By age?  By gender?  By race?  By occupation?  How do you stereotype teachers?  Grading papers was always my least favorite chore!  Why must we label each other, anyway?

Click to enlarge and see their signs
So how do you answer Meg Wheatley's question, "What is my unique contribution to the whole?"


Bonnie Jacobs said...

Stereotypes, anyone?

Shirley said...

As Wheatley indicated, we increasingly identify others by labels. The use of identifiers makes it more difficult to know who a person is--they become the label rather than the unique individual that each person is. These labels make it easier to stereotype.

Unfortunately, I realize that I do label all the time pretending that this makes it easier for me to feel that I know more about someone than I do and it prevents me from getting to know the person for who she is. It pleases me when a labeled person steps outside of who I think that he/she is and gives me a refreshing reminder not only of the uniqueness of the person, but the narrowness of the label.

Zorro said...

I am aware of numerous stereotypes that I have to be careful of. I live in WEST Texas. I do have a bias based on stereotypes of people living EAST of IH35. This includes most of the SOUTHERN part of the United States. Until the last few years, I had very little experience in the South and did not really know the people of the South.

I am learning (through experience) to be more understanding and accepting of their unique differences from people in my part of the world.

Really, much of my stereotyping comes from the Southern books that I have read.

Bonnie is the only Tennessean that I know well enough to change my perceptions of the people of Tennessee. She is a great 'ambasador' for her region!

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Thanks, Mary. Are you in town? Do you have my phone number with you? Email me, or send me a Facebook message, if you need my number.

Shirley said...

Yeah, Bonnie, for your ambassador work in improving Mary's perceptions of Tennesseans.

It does seem that once one gets to know people as individuals that labels not only are changed, but eventually are dropped in favor of each individual's identity.