Proximity Prevents Hostility

"There’s a lot of hatred, prejudice, discrimination, and contention between and among people who don’t really even know each other. Humans tend to fear difference, especially at a distance." -James Baldwin 1963 “Many of our society's greatest problems are created by people who don’t feel seen and heard.” -David Brooks “

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Episode Show Notes

Today's lesson:
Proximity Prevents Hostility

Key Points:
"There’s a lot of hatred, prejudice, discrimination, and contention between and among people who don’t really even know each other. Humans tend to fear difference, especially at a distance." -James Baldwin 1963 “Many of our society's greatest problems are created by people who don’t feel seen and heard.” -David Brooks “Prejudice and ethnic strife feed off abstraction” --Alain de Botton 

Today's key action:
Here it is: Spend time in the same physical space as someone with different bumper stickers than you and make a concerted effort to understand their perspective by asking questions.

Episode Transcript

0:00:05.5 Junior: Welcome back, everyone, to Culture by Design. My name's Junior. I'm here with Dr. Tim Clark for a single-point lesson, the most valuable 10 minutes you'll spend in professional development all week. Tim, what's the lesson today? 

0:00:16.5 Tim: Junior, the lesson today is that the proximity prevents hostility.

0:00:21.1 Junior: I'm excited about this one. Today, we'll talk about human interaction patterns and why staying proximal as a leader is the healthy thing to do. We'll start with a quote from James Baldwin. He said this in 1963. There's a lot of hatred, prejudice, discrimination, and contention between and among people who don't really even know each other. Humans tend to fear difference, especially at a distance. What do you think about that quote? 

0:00:45.3 Tim: I'd say, accent on the last phrase, humans tend to fear difference, especially at a distance. And that's really what we're going to talk about, Junior. It's that distance that perpetuates the fear and the unknown and the uncertainty. So if we can close that distance, it changes everything. It changes the game.

0:01:07.1 Junior: Two more quotes for you. Next one from David Brooks. Many of our society's greatest problems are created by people who don't feel seen and heard. And then the next one, Alain de Botton. Prejudice and ethnic strife feed off abstraction. I think that this is closest to the heart of what we're talking about today. So why, Tim, does abstraction feed prejudice or distance? 

0:01:31.8 Tim: I think abstraction creates uncertainty and we fill the void. And often we fill the void with suspicion and judgment and it's negative, right? And I want to come back to David Brooks' statement for just a minute. Many of our society's greatest problems are created by people who don't feel seen and heard. People are relational creatures. We are driven to connect. We long to belong. But notice what happens. There's a distortion that often happens. If we can't achieve healthy connection, constructive connection, oftentimes people resort to destructive attention as the next best thing. So think about that distinction, constructive connection, which is what we all need, versus destructive attention. Sometimes people are motivated and driven to seek attention in any way that they can and it leads to, it leads to destruction, at least negative consequences. So that's something that we need to think about.

0:02:47.7 Junior: I've been thinking a lot about the sentence, prejudice and ethnic strife feed off abstraction, meaning that if there is no abstraction or if there's less abstraction, then there's no or less prejudice and ethnic strife. So what does abstract mean? It means theoretical. It means conceptual, speculative, conjectural, make-believe in some sense. And what's the opposite of that? Actual, concrete, representational, realistic. So if you think about those words, what we're saying is that if you understand what is actual, what is concrete, what is representational, then there's not a lot of room for prejudice. There's not a lot of room for ethnic strife. And one of the things that I've seen as a pattern, and not unique to me, we've all seen this, as humans, we love to fill empty space. If we don't have information, we love to speculate, we start to theorize, we come up with stories and interpretations and do all of that in the absence of information. So if there's a knowledge gap, we fill that really quickly. And whether or not it's true, what we fill it with is entirely another story.

0:04:01.2 Tim: Yeah, we don't just let the space remain unfilled. Isn't that interesting? It's the vacuum is always filled with something. And unfortunately, often it's not positive or encouraging or building or edifying. And so we need to, let's talk about what we should do, Junior, how do we close the space? What do we do? 

0:04:25.3 Junior: We get proximal. And sometimes in a very literal sense, be around people, be close, break bread. That proximity is the solution to a lot of this abstraction, because when you get proximal, you have much better information, there are fewer knowledge gaps because it's right in front of you and you're met face-to-face with reality. Tim, I'm wondering, are there any times or a time in particular where you got to know someone better simply because you were proximal? 

0:04:57.1 Tim: Yes, more than once. I probably can't even count the times. But what's interesting is that the closer you get to someone the more you like them. Isn't that an interesting principle? So as you close that distance, as you remove that space, and as you get to know someone and you get to know their story, especially if they're different from you, it wells up in you natural affection and connection for that person. And so that's something that we all have the ability to do. And there are different ways to do that. How about you, Junior? Has that happened to you? 

0:05:38.8 Junior: Yeah, it's happened a lot of times. I think, as I was thinking yesterday about this, I had a very different perspective of what the third world was before and after I spent a lot of time in it. And so at a distance, in reference to that first quote, I don't have a lot of information and there's a lot of abstraction. And I have an idea of what most of the third world might be like. And maybe I have a lot of empathy or maybe I have little, but the fact of the matter is I don't have a lot of information. And then I spend time in the third world over time in months and years and start to come face-to-face with what was previously abstract and it becomes reality. And the pictures in my mind of what I thought before and what I experienced during were different. There was dissonance between those two things. And that was proof to me, okay, you gotta be very, very careful about filling in those informational gaps. And when you do fill in those informational gaps, you're taking a risk. And so being conscious that that's what you're doing, I think is a really important thing. Any, not in my case, but just speaking generally, any hostility we have, any ignorance we have, it can very much be diffused. It can very much be solved for by spending time and energy getting to know people and situations.

0:07:08.3 Tim: Well, Junior, and then the inverse is true as well. So how is it that we perpetuate prejudice and bias and discrimination and really judgments that are not accurate? We perpetuate those things by maintaining the distance. And we're able to remove those things by closing the distance. Right, as we said at the outset, proximity prevents hostility. It removes it if it's there. And then if we stay close, if we create relationships that are meaningful, it changes our perspective, it changes our understanding, and it changes life. That's what it does.

0:07:55.9 Junior: I wanna go down a vein for just one second. And this is something that people can look into, but I thought it was fascinating, at least to me, I'm no biologist. Physiological effects of proximity. So oxytocin, oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland. It was really interesting. I started learning about this yesterday. It's involved in social bonding and attachment. And oxytocin can increase feelings of trust and cooperation in social interactions. It also helps regulate the amygdala, part of the brain that's involved in fear and aggression. So there's something literally advantageous about being proximal to other humans. As you mentioned, we're social, we're relational creatures, and that's true in a biological, physiological perspective. You mentioned something about liking people when you're around them more. Orson Scott Card said, when you really know somebody, you can't hate them. I thought a lot about that quote. I think it's true. What do you think? 

0:08:52.1 Tim: Yeah, I do. It's that proximity. It's removing the distance, removing the space. The more you come to know someone, the more you come to appreciate them. And you can't hate them. It's nearly impossible when you get to know them. So I agree with this completely.

0:09:12.2 Junior: So the call to action today, what's the single thing we would invite you to do to help put this into practice? Here's an interesting one for you. Spend time in the same physical space as someone with different bumper stickers than you. And make a concerted effort to understand their perspective by asking questions. Thank you everyone for your time and attention during today's single point lesson. We hope that this was 10 minutes well spent. See you next time. Bye-bye.

Show Notes

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Episode Transcript

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!

How to customize formatting for each rich text

Headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "When inside of" nested selector system.

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