Don't rush to judge others, have an open mind

My observation is that an individual's behaviour is influenced by five key pillars that make them unique

By Nasif Kayed

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Published: Thu 24 Aug 2017, 9:09 PM

Last updated: Thu 24 Aug 2017, 11:10 PM

I'd like to shed some light on how one can begin to open up, be curious and willing to explore other cultures. In starting our journey to know one another we need to first understand what defines us as humans and what should be the protocols for interacting without getting too technical.

My observation is that an individual's behaviour is influenced by five key pillars that make them unique.

Firstly, it is the traditions we hold dear. These are largely influences of family and people, events and history, past and present, passed on through generations and continuously evolving.

Second is our culture - the environment and place we grow up or live in for an extended period. Locally, you may notice differences among the Emiratis within the UAE, too. Emiratis from the coastal communities are different from the ones in inland villages, the desert, the mountains and valleys, the nomadic to the settled.

Third is our belief. Regardless of what ideology we are born into or choose to belong to, a holy scripture, or the choice to refute one, manmade laws, economic systems, or whatever dictates the norms of the society.

Fourth is our nationality or political identity, which could be where you were born, or where your parents were born or what country you migrated from or to, or a nationality you have acquired through naturalisation or born with.

Fifth pillar constitutes our experiences and upbringing, stages of moral development, values we are taught, principles, and most importantly our attitudes.

These pillars of personality make each of us unique, and collectively it makes human race beautiful. Whether it is human nature or learned behaviour, we look for a reflection of ourselves in others. However, it puts us off if we are unable to find compatibility. We become uncomfortable or shy away from such people or places. Some individuals are polite about it, quietly going about their way of doing things, not venturing out of their comfort zone, and remaining neutral to the differences that may exist. Some recognise the differences and are curious about different habits, behaviour and thinking, studying it, experiencing it and assimilating what suits them, leaving the rest. Some can be extremely uncivilised toward any differences, constantly measuring people against themselves and using those measures to include those that are similar and exclude the rest. Then there are people who create rifts and separation among people, stereotype and spread hatred, whether the differences are significant or not. They seem to forget that we are by nature unique, and as I always say, meant to complement and complete each another not compete.

What kind of human being are you? Getting to really know someone, and accept the beauty in our differences require us to be aware of who we are first, and challenge ourselves to be the curious one, the one who learns through experiences rather than measure the differences.

Let's see how we can start to sincerely engage with others.

. First step is to willingly suspend judgment in every shape or form that has become a part of our collective society or individual personality when dealing with differences. One of our biggest challenges today is negative media and misinformation.

. Second step is to willingly reflect on our misconceptions, adjust our perceptions and see things from a different perspective.

. Third step is to detach oneself from any stereotyping. First encounter, a negative one perhaps, should not influence the next. Moreover, remember that one person's actions do not represent the majority's view, whether in a cultural context or religious. We should not give up if our efforts are met with negative attitudes or incomprehension.

. We must avoid social sequestering, such as gathering exclusively with people of the same ethnic background, race, colour, or faith. Make it a habit to invite others into your social group or venture out into areas of your city where you can experience another culture, food, entertainment or shopping.

. Fifth step is to make an effort to constantly learn. Fill your head and heart with deeper knowledge, avoid the superficial outer appearances of differences, and get to know others. You don't need to lose yourself in embracing another culture.

A sincere effort to understand our neighbours and communities is essential to intercultural coexistence and help in eradicating prejudice. Culture is everything and everything is culture.

- Nasif Kayed is Founder and CEO of The Arab Culturalist

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