Saturday, October 18, 2014

Familiar Stories

I got this book over ten years ago.  I used to read it every summer.  I’m not sure why.  There is something comforting about revisiting a story, the characters.
To sum it up, it’s about a group of folks trying to catch a serial killer in the late 1800s.

By the way, this post isn’t a book recommendation.  The story and writing are fantastic, however, it is a bit gruesome.
Alienist was a term used back then to describe what is now a modern day psychologist.  In this story, the alienist introduces the concept of “context” to find the killer and learn more about them.  You know, context, where we look beyond our judgments of someone’s action and instead seek understanding of their lives.

It has been so long since I read the story that I completely forgot about that element in the book.  So when I chose to read it recently, I was quite amused.
And I’m sure that any of my coworkers reading this particular entry are smiling as well.

This concept of context, where we seek understanding instead of assigning labels and making judgments, is something that I talk about and encourage others to look at every day in my professional life.  In fact, when I did two trainings this week, I probably used the word 100 times.  And I may not be exaggerating.
I use it so frequently because making assumptions and judgments is the easy way out.  It gives us an excuse not to ask someone about their story.  It gives us the excuse we need to dismiss people.

Looking at context, seeking understanding, asking questions, valuing someone’s life experiences is hard work.  And worth it.
I wonder what people see of me on those hard days lately, those challenging moments.  Do they make assumptions about me?  They probably don’t know what has been going on in my life.  Do they assume I am standoffish or rude because I don’t want to be a part of a conversation?  Do they assume that I’m lazy because maybe I haven’t been able to focus?

And it makes me think of when I have made assumptions about others.  I may never know what their experience is or was. 
Maybe we could all take a moment to give each other the benefit of the doubt.  To show some kindness.  To seek out understanding.

To look at the greater context.
This post is part of my 31 Day series.  To start from the beginning, click here.

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Be kind, not judgey