I recently read an article that said a person’s measure of disgust demonstrates how rigid they are in what they call “morality” which leads to how they judge others. The more they felt disgusted by the actions of other humans, the more intolerant they were of people different from themselves and ideas outside of their view of the world.
This made total sense to me. The more you feel disgust, the more close-minded you are.
The beauty of the article was in the follow-on study where they paired the “disgusted people” with objects of their disgust. They objects of disgust were instructed to share stories about their families, their upbringing, their struggles and their joys.
The ending is totally predictable. When we listen to people’s stories, we realize how similar we all are. Disgust melts into empathy. Intolerance decreases.
So how can we use this information at home, in the workplace, in our neighborhoods and in creating a larger global community?
I am writing this post while sitting on an Asian airplane in Hong Kong, laying over until we take off for Singapore. On the way to China, the airplane was full of people different from me. They ate differently, disobeyed travel rules according to me, took up space differently than I and looked at me as if I were the alien. I wondered about the people as they disembarked the plane. If I knew the stories of my fellow travelers, I bet I would be fascinated, amused, heartbroken, delighted and in love.
When the plane emptied, the flight attendant came by, checked my passport and slapped a sticker on me indicating I was “checked baggage” because I opted to stay on the plane and write instead of wander the Hong Kong airport at 5 o’clock Sunday morning. I chose to be amused rather than disgusted.
As I prepare to deliver a keynote to the Asia-Pacific Coaching Conference on the Mysteries of Interconnection, I will hold this energy. I honor our cultural differences, but I am more in awe of our human similarities. I think we first need to connect before we focus on how we differ.
And if you catch yourself feeling disgusted by someone, can you step back and think about what stories the person might share? What fears, dreams, hopes, and disappointments might they be experiencing? Or better yet, can you ask them?
How will you use this perspective today?