Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Common Ground

One of the tricks to dealing with schizophrenics is to work from the common ground. You can't hear the voices or see the images that they might see. Simultaneously, they can't NOT see or hear them. If it was a choice, it wouldn't be a mental illness. You can waste endless energy and just infuriate people by arguing about what is real and what isn't.

So you work from the common ground: "You probably know I can't see the blue people, but I can see that you're bleeding. Can I help you with that?"

It works, more often than not. Not just here, either.

Talking to a friend recently about cultural sensitivity instruction. Many do it backwards, to my mind. They try to give you a list of all the ways that all of the world's different cultures differ from yours. Sometimes without even knowing what your culture is.

It backfires, sometimes. There is nothing quite as annoying as someone who watched a television special on a part of the world and feels a need to tell a native what that native believes and why. The whole time, the speaker feels 'sensitive.'

Work from the common ground. Respect is actually pretty universal. So is truth. I've never insulted anyone by saying, "I know absolutely nothing about your country. How do I say, 'Hello'?" There is no disrespectful way to ask for instruction, as long as you are sincere, and follow it up with actually listening and learning.

Cultural differences, mental health, even politics and religion. All easier to understand starting from the common ground.

4 comments:

Narda said...

Insightful post. A good one to reflect on. :)

Viro said...

Sorry for the fact that this isn't related to your post, but I couldn't find a way to email you.

I also couldn't find your original post (at work, it takes too much time to search) dealing with criminals who write books/articles that whitewash their past actions, but I thought of that post when I read this story:

cheetahs play with an antelope

Quint said...

The interesting one I've found is the weird opposite of what you talk about where you ask people "Don't you guys XXXYYY here?" based on something you learned, and everyone looks at you like you smell like hamburger and need to go home.

Then after years of living in the culture, you realize what the person teaching you this was actually talking about, that people in this culture actually DO do those things, and it's such a part of the culture that it's completely unidentifiable to the individual.

An example would be that Americans value tools over labor. If you said that outright to an American, he'd look at you like you had just said that he likes to eat moon rocks for dinner. However, the fact is that modern technological culture is such that any job that can only be accomplished with manual labor is considered beneath the vast majority of people, hence the demand for Non-US labor cleaning toilets and working assembly lines. When you phrase it that way, people do actually agree that they would rather have something that saves them effort than work harder at a job.

Ann T. said...

Dear Rory,
I love this post. One thing I have learned, if you have prepared, you don't have to cringe when you say you don't know.

If you have to approach it as a person who has made no effort, you're screwed, much like when teacher asked where was yuh homework.

Very funny,
Ann T.