Everyone has a different perspective on life because everyone has gone through different experiences and seen different things; no one is exactly the same- (I know you’re thinking… “duh”). But this past week I have begun to understand just how different the people we live among on a day to day basis actually are.
Last Friday I over heard a conversation between two of my friends who are African American. For clarity I will call one woman Lauren, and the other Alexa (these are not their real names). Lauren began to explain that she had been in a meeting with a white man, and afterwards, the man said to her that she was “a very articulate speaker.” Alexa immediately responded “oh, wow,” which left me extremely confused. What was wrong with being called articulate? As a person who often struggles to speak eloquently, I would love to be called articulate, I see that as such a compliment! There was obviously something that I did not understand, so I began to ask questions. It turns out, that Lauren and Alexa both feel that as women of color, being called “articulate” by a white man infers that he did not expect Lauren to be able to speak so well, because she is a black woman. This got me thinking… what are the things that I say to people, intending for it to be a complement because I, myself, would see it as a compliment, when in reality it is an insult to them because of who they are.
Many people hold the belief that asking questions infers that you don’t understand something, which has a negative connotation. The truth is, asking questions often does mean that you do not understand something, but not understanding is nothing that anyone should ever apologize for. Asking questions should be viewed as a positive thing. Asking questions infers that you care to learn more about a subject. There is humility in admitting that there are things that you just don’t know or understand.
Asking questions gives you the power to have relationships with people who have different perspectives from you. Asking questions gives you the ability to be conscious of how other people perceive the world around them. While you may never truly understand the life they have lived, you can still be empathetic by being open and asking questions. You can also help others understand who you are and where you are coming from, by being open to the fact that they, like you, can’t possibly know everything. So, my goal for the remainder of the summer (and for the rest of my life I suppose) is to never stop asking questions, because there are always always ALWAYS going to be things that I just can’t possibly understand on my own based on who I am.