I make irrational judgements. There’s people I outright don’t like and from the start, I subconsciously poison the relationship when I selectively affirm my own bias. What queues this visceral reaction? Why don’t I like them? I think it’s deeply rooted in my background and upbringing.
A bit of my story
My grandmother was raised in an orphanage, got married in due time, had children and an optician business. They were able to save enough money to send my father to school in Canada for a better life. My mother was the 4th child of 8 in a rural community in Hong Kong. Fearing Hong Kong’s return to communist China in 1997, my parents, brother and I fled to Vancouver, BC in 1990 since my father was a Canadian.
I remember my childhood being pleasant. Thankfully, I didn’t notice I was ‘poor’ till high school when I showed up at a birthday party with a handmade gift I made because my parents didn’t have money to purchase a gift for the host. When it came time to open gifts, I went from excited to mortified when I looked at what I offered compared to other friends. Thinking back now, I’m pretty sure most kids in my school didn’t use a homemade rice paste for glue in school projects, but I was blissfully naive before the birthday party incident.
My parents weren’t around because they worked several jobs each. They weren’t able to help me with homework or guide me to find a job. They sacrificed everything they had so that I could attend a private university and hope for a better life. I’m extremely privileged today because of this massive gift of literal blood, sweat, and tears shed by my parents. I aim to steward my opportunities and share what I have because I know there’s a kid out there that can use a glue stick.
A Challenge to Myself
Today, I want to challenge my bias and quick judgement of the people I just can’t seem to get along with. Often, I would use words such as ‘entitled’, ‘inconsiderate’, ‘boastful’, and ‘political’ to describe them. I use a pluralistic pronoun because it’s not any particular person, but rather a type of person or behaviour. As I get older, I find myself with small collections of these folks, so it’s imperative stop this unhealthy cycle. How do I empathize? How do I step into their world when I can’t get over the fact that they don’t donate when sacrificing just 1 of 7 lattes could save a human life? How do I prevent visceral eye rolling when absorbing back-hand brags hidden as complaints about first world problems?
How do I dismantle this bias in order to show empathy? What are some fallacies in my belief? What am I projecting onto others?
First, I need to consider, acknowledge and respect their personal journey. Not everyone may have been poor, but everyone has had struggles no matter big or small. Life stories aren’t relative. Other people have experiences and memories that shaped them similar to the ones that have shaped me. There’s no right or wrong. I need to consider that most of the time, I DON’T EVEN KNOW THEIR STORY! Hence, the first step towards empathy is active listening and learning.
Second, people have a right to spend their hard-earned money where they choose. Perhaps their daily morning latte is a simple joy. Or perhaps, a latte is an effective alternative from needing a mental health day. I need to see it from their perspective. What makes their heart glad? Rather, I have no right to judge others on how they spend their money. As a fundraiser, this should be fuel for me to create compelling content and stories to encouraging giving. If I turn off the guilt and focus on empowering people to give, maybe more people will give.
An exercise to put myself in someone else’s shoes is to write from their perspective: Why someone is right not to give
Stop making me feel guilty for what I have. I’ve earned it with the strength of my own arm and a bit of self care here and there is needed. I’ve worked hard to make a life for myself and I finally get to put my feet up for once. As a nurse, I walk around the hospital and I see death and dying — everyday. You think I don’t know their pain and hurt? I do. I see the tears of their loved ones. I see the agony fellow humans are in. There’s nothing you or I can do about it. We can’t save anyone — not with medicine, social programs, and definitely not with money. Dying is just a natural part of life. Yes, it’s sad, but it just is. Why throw money at something that is inevitable.
Moreover, I will certainly not give to your charity. We don’t need more teenagers taking a gap year in Africa “helping” children in need feeling self-righteous about having done something good. Your organizations do humanitarian aid in order to proselytize to people that are less educated. You have an ulterior motive.
Instead of asking me to give, ask me how I love and I will tell you the ways.
Third, stopping the use of “them” language altogether. I used the words “them/they/their” 22 times so far. I instruct our copywriters not to use us-them language in charity marketing materials about those struggling with homelessness, the underprivileged. The same can be applied to people of privilege. No one made me the standard as if everyone less privileged than me is underprivileged and deserving of charity and everyone more privileged than me, judgement.
I understand that there is fallacy in my beliefs. My judgements (which are based on irrational fallacies) subconsciously leak through involuntary cues like body language, facial expression and reflexes. (Thanks for the Feedback, Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen) I’m not the hardest working person out there. I didn’t have such hard life. Seeing the diligence and perseverance in others’ stories and that doesn’t discount mine. I’m not better than anyone else because I work with charities. It’s a privilege to be able to work for charities and pay my bills. Choosing my lifestyle and personal priorities are right for me and others have the right to do whatever the hell they want. I don’t need to agree with everyone, but I don’t need to judge them either.