Many of the changes that we face in life involve people. After all, their choices and our choices create the reality around us. It is therefore important to ensure, as far as possible, that we have good relationships with the people who appear in our lives. This makes it easier for us to achieve our goals and to flow with change.
But before we proceed further, please look at the picture above. What do you see? Is the colour the same shade throughout?
The picture is actually an optical illusion. Its colour is indeed the same shade throughout as seen from the picture below. When you cover the middle portion, this becomes clear. You can also achieve this effect by using your hand to cover the middle portion of the picture above.
The Cornsweet Illusion helps me to illustrate a point. Boundaries can create illusions that make people seem different. But when we remove or cover those boundaries, we are actually the same.
Boundaries: A Doubled-Edged Sword
Many kinds of boundaries divide people in this world. Some of these include race, nations and religious beliefs. On a more personal level, there are interests, likes and dislikes. Our experiences, views and beliefs give us our unique identities. They make us who we are. But the world can be a lonely place without like-minded people who understand us. Thus, it is natural and comforting to want to join with people who are similar to us. And with the spread of social media like Facebook today, it is very easy to do so.
While we bond with people who are similar, we may be less welcoming to those who are different. We may have prejudice against perceived outsiders. Some boundaries are necessary to maintain a certain sense of order in the world today. Others, like where we are born, we have no control over. Here, that which is necessary can also go too far.
Instead of order and harmony, boundaries can cause violence and disharmony. Instead of pooling our strengths and resources to achieve great things, we may use them against “others” who are different from us. The result is war and many of the ills that plague countries in the world. On a more personal level, it may create needless obstacles in our way. Our attitude towards people who are different may make it hard for us to work well with them.
Boundaries are Created
I grew up seeing people of different races live harmoniously in the same place. I went to school with all kinds of kids as well. It would have been easy for me to assume that such was the norm around the world. Thankfully, my love for history and world affairs made me realize that such harmony is not a given in life. Instead, this peace and harmony is the result of careful nurturing. If so, then the type of boundaries we have, and what we choose to focus on makes a big difference.
The Illusion of Boundaries
Human beings are a paradox. We are different due to our experiences, influences, likes and dislikes and so on. All of these things make us unique. Yet, if we look at the big picture, we are not that different. If we observe ourselves from another angle, we have many similarities as well.
In truth, boundaries are an illusion. We have more in common than we realize. It is a matter of what we choose to perceive. Instead of focusing on differences, we can notice similarities. For example, no matter our culture or race, we all have loved ones. We all know pain and sorrow, joy and happiness. We all experience fear and loss. We all have to deal with adversity at some point or other. No one can escape the human condition even if his or her circumstances are different.
Perception is everything. How we perceive things determines our success or failure. It can make things easy or difficult for us.
For instance, seeing other people as rivals can make it hard for us to manage challenges and change. Instead, this view creates boundaries that divide when we should unite. At critical moments, it may end up causing needless problems for us.
It is far better to have people on our side than to have them against us. To do so, we must emphasize our similarities and reduce our differences. Wherever it is possible, we must try to find common ground. Here, it pays to listen carefully without prejudice. The key is to empathize with and understand their point of view. This will enable us to meet them halfway wherever possible.
We cannot build trust in an instant. But if we focus on the little things and pay attention to detail, we can have small successes. This will go a long way in creating bonds that will help us to undertake bigger things in the future.
By taking a balanced and flexible view of the situation, we can achieve harmony with others. This will help us to manage any changes that happen in life.
Are there boundaries in your life that alienate you from others? Have your prejudices and assumptions made it hard for you to resolve the issues you face? How did you manage the situation? Have you ever connected with people by focusing on common ground? How has this helped you to manage challenges with them? What are some of the ways you can think of to find common ground with others? Do share your thoughts and comments below!