The topic of the circle of life came up in a meaningful conversation I had last week. I wrote about it in my first book in 1994 (Clearing Your Path) coincidentally. There is an exercise in the book where you can take inventory of people in your life and categorize them per age group. The first age group is 0-12 and the last one is 65+. In other words, you would make a list of people you spend frequent and meaningful time with who are aged 0-12 and go through the circle of life to the last group of people you know who are above 65.
I have found people who have each age category legitimately filled to be some of the more thoughtful and empathetic ones. Engaging with people of different perspectives meaningfully truly does allow you to see from their lens, irrespective of whether you agree with or dislike that perspective. Conversely, I have found some of the most well-intentioned but myopic folks to be those who either have very few people in each box or in many cases, have some boxes overloaded and others entirely empty.
I bring this topic up today almost 18 years after I first wrote about it because we live in a world where both media and social media are breaking down traditional walls of separation between generations, races, geography, and the like. We are forced to hear, read about, or see different people more now than ever before. Those with low Empathy (one of the 5 dimensions of EQ) tend to respond to all this stimuli with that myopic vision unable to empathize with the story, limited to their own experiences, and often resulting in unhealthy debates to what actually are universal and timeless emotions.
The concept of the circle of life as I did it in my book was based on age. But it could just as easily be done for race or ethnicity or other difference. I am surprised at just how many people despise gays and lesbians, for example, and yet, cannot claim to have a single meaningful relationship with either. I know people who have been homophobic until their son, daughter, or close relative/friend comes out and all of a sudden, the perspectives changes. The concept could also transfer to the workplace. How many departments do you have where you work? How many people outside of your department or functional expertise do you have a meaningful relationship with?
This week, meet someone different or reconnect with someone different just because they are different. Repeat this. Not only will your empathy scores rise, but I have a hunch you might feel much stronger about being a citizen of the world.