“Aren’t all people different?” This question was raised by one of the participants in the mindfulness training I am following once a week. The trainer had just said that different people have similar experiences, meaning that you are never really alone. The difference between people’s reactions to similar experiences can indeed be observed. But what does that mean? That comparison is useless? Not necessarily.
Same situation, different reactions
It is certainly true that different people react differently to similar situations and experiences. I only have to look at my wife and myself to learn how different those reactions can be. The same can be observed in any work environment, where different colleagues deal in many different ways with the same work conditions. Now, how could that be related to YAYOM?
Observing other people allows us to cultivate awareness.
By looking at how other people react to similar experiences, we can become more aware of our own reactions. We may discover a pattern in our reactions. So, other people’s behavior functions as a magnifying glass for our own.
A source of inspiration
Watching other people’s (re)actions also helps us to become aware that our own reaction isn’t but one of a large gamma of possible reactions. By realizing this, we can use other people’s behavior not only as a reflective tool, but also as a source of inspiration. This inspiration can go both ways, by the way.
If we find someone else’s behavior ‘better’ than ours, we can try to introduce it into our own behavioral options. But it’s also possible that after comparing ourselves to other people, we find our own reactions ‘better’ and feel ourselves evermore convinced of how we react. And maybe we can try to inspire those other people by holding on to our preferred behavior.
Imagine an uncomfortable situation where 2 persons feel treated unfairly. One may shy away and keep his mouth shut. The other one, on the other hand, starts to shout and argue. Both persons can inspire each other. The shy one maybe admires the shouting person for his courage, while the loud one may wish he could stay as calm and zen as the quiet one.
Or they could inspire each other the other way around: the shy one may find himself happy with the fact he doesn’t make such a fuzz, while the shouting person may congratulate himself with the fact that at least he stood his ground.
People acting differently in similar situations can be seen as an inspiration for our own actions and thoughts by the multitude of alternative possibilities they present. That is the power of diversity. It makes us aware of how we are today and how else we could be if we desired so.
How about you? How do you feel inspired by observing others? Or do you believe, as my fellow-trainee does, that people are different and that that’s it? Have you experienced people copying each other’s behavior? Share it, here or on Facebook, and inspire us!