In the podcast Into the Adultverse, Faud Ali and Damien Joseph bring in Jonathan Tesser, VP Research, Insights and Analytics at NYC & Company, and an “influencer” on LinkedIn.
Throughout the podcast, Tesser talks about the importance of data analytics, advice for young professionals, and content creation on LinkedIn. But one concept that he kept harping on was the importance of one’s subjective experience, that your observations of life are valuable.
Tesser says, “ My inherent approach to humanity, which is the reason I am able to talk to people cross-culturally, is that I care more about learning more about their experience, who they are… than I care about ‘my judgment of the world is better than yours and I’m going to force you into thinking what I do… it’s this non-judgemental way of looking at the human race and saying that, ‘We’re all in this together. We’re all going to be okay. We’re all messed up. We’re all great and that we have a lot to learn from each other…”
Subjective experiences are valuable for empathy. Whether it is in a professional setting, talking about the current social climate, or simply texting a friend, valuing one’s experiences is something that many people forget. Especially during the last few months, political, social, and religious tensions have been rising. When an issue is brought up, all sides start yelling that their experience is correct and the other’s is incorrect.
But this thinking can become dangerous. We start labeling the actions and thoughts of a few to the masses. We generalize and group one’s experience with the experience of the whole. We don’t always need to be right. Instead, we should try to understand one’s experience and fit into the other person’s shoes to see why they feel so connected about that issue.
As Tesser says, we are all in this together and we have a lot to learn from each other. Each one of us brings a unique experience to the table that can ultimately enhance any discussion — whether it be professional, political, societal, generational, cultural, etc. This is extremely valuable in the workplace. When we are working on a project, we often pigeon hole our ideas based on what we know and understand. But there are a variety of ways to think about a situation that we may not even have thought about.
Take the following example. An app designer, developer, marketer, CFO, and the CEO are all sitting in a room brainstorming what they should include in their app. Hypothetically…
- The app designer will only look at how the app will look aesthetic
- The developer will find the easiest and most efficient way to build the apr
- The marketer will want to ensure all the features requested by the customer base are included
- The CFO wants to get it done on a budget
- The CEO wants to make it the best app possible to beat the competition
How the heck are they supposed to brainstorm if each one has a different skillset? But this is exactly what happens in the workplace. Each person will brainstorm based on their skillsets and experience, but they all will have the same indirect purpose: to create the best app that reflects the company’s goals.
Instead of different professionals or occupations, each person is a different gender, religion, culture, generation, etc. With 7.8 billion people on Earth, you can easily see how easily it can be to generalize and judge others. However, it’s important to hear about their individual experience. One’s belief is only cultivated because they have some sort of personal experience behind that belief. If you know the experience they went through, you will have a better understanding of why they believe something. It might not sit well with your values or experiences, but that’s the beauty of it — we all can learn something from each other. When we learn about other’s experiences, we develop empathy and respect towards them.
When we hear an idea or issue that we may or may not agree with, do three things:
- Pause — This is the most forgetful step — even for me. Before unleashing your thoughts on them, breathe. You cannot control the reactions of others, but you can control your reactions. Do not jump to any conclusions, rather pause for a moment before speaking.
- Discuss your experiences — Talk to each other about your experiences that brought you to that belief or issue. This is a two-way street. In order to receive respect, you must give it.
- Cherish your commonalities and understand each other’s differences — No two people are alike. That’s what makes humans so special. Understand each other’s differences and see where they stand based on your experiences. But also cherish the things that are similar. When we focus more on what makes us similar, we find it easier to keep a sense of unity and respect with others.
Subjective experience is what makes each person unique. Why not talk and share them? (Kind of why I started writing a blog) It creates a sense of individuality while maintaining a foundation of respect and empathy for others. It may be hard to do, but remember, we’re all in this together.