Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Danger of Stereotyping

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.”
- Robertson Davies, author
As human beings, we tend to think that we are rational creatures who see the world the way it really is, but what we don’t realize is that we often unconsciously seek out information that tends to confirm our current views, and we often dismiss information that disconfirms our long-held perspectives.
This is true of so many facets of our lives, and we often are unaware of the fact that we do this. We convince ourselves that we give all information a fair and equal treatment, but we generally don’t because analyzing information takes more cognitive work, and the fear of being wrong and of having to set aside past views can at times be paralyzing. You would think it would be liberating to learn more, but our current perspectives may have been so much a part of our identify that letting go can be deeply uncomfortable.
As a result, we tend to see only what our mind is prepared to see.
Where I see this play out in my work is the fact that students often hold certain stereotypes about people from other cultures, and unfortunately at times, don’t seek out new information to debunk views that aren’t accurate.
As a result, students sometimes feel uncomfortable, disappointed, or hurt when other people claim this or that about their country that only misrepresents its people. Broad sweeping statements like, “Yeah, I know that people in your country ________.” You can fill in the blank. I’ve even seen students deeply hurt over characterizations that aren’t true.
And rather than limiting my comment to just international students, this thinking error plagues all of us—-teachers, organizations—-and people like Randall.
All this said, I have also seen relationships built when people come together because they were ready to listen and learn with open minds and hearts.
So the next time you are absolutely, 249% sure that your view represents reality, stop and ask yourself if you have analyzed all relevant information before arriving at your ironclad conclusion. Chances are you haven’t.
Have you ever seen such examples in your own life? Feel free to share.

Understanding Others

If you want to hear a powerful message about broadening your understanding of other people and cultures, you may very well find this lecture very thought-provoking and life changing:
“The danger of a single story. Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.”

Self-Study Guide -

For many teachers and students, school is just around the corner. If you are looking for specific listening activities to plan your teaching/learning, take a look at my self-study guide which organizes my listening activities by topic:

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Being Wrong and Learning From It

I think it can be useful to remember that we may spend our whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find in the end that our ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. And no one wants to be wrong.
However, being open to examining our own life's map sometimes takes courage, especially when our former conclusions don't hold up against new information.
For example, I often see my own students struggle to recast new images of other cultural groups from a distance, but when students from different countries begin to interact together on a closer level, they begin to deeply examine their former beliefs about one another. Apprehension and fear are replaced by kindness and understanding, and a deeper gratitude for others flourishes.
There can be concern for those who close their eyes and still cling to the top of the wrong ladder, so secure in absolutes. However, the richest relationships that I cherish have had been with those who are doing the best they can, and when I have found myself climbing up the wrong ladder, they are patient enough to redirect me. Sometimes, we need to shed intellectual hubris and certainly to find our way.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Improving Your Listening Skills

"When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it's like giving them emotional oxygen." -- Stephen Covey
At times as human beings, we are unfortunately more involved in business of correcting others than we are in deeply peering into their world of struggle and discomfort, seeing their perspectives, and validating their experiences. I think we tend to do this because we are often so sure that our worldview mirrors reality, and the worldview of others is somehow lacking.
One of my favorite books in called the Invisible Gorrilla by Simons and Chabris, two distinguished research and cognitive psychologists who explored who whole field of inattentional blindness and how we often don't see the world the way it really is.
So how does this related to my own field of language learning and intercultural studies?
The more my students explore, and at times, embrace new perspectives about fellow students from different countries, the more they can see that there is not just one "correct" way of doing things. They then demonstrate a greater capacity to shower generosity, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness in so many new ways. Simply said, this new understanding expands their vision of others and has a rippling effect across cultural boundaries.
In the end, everyone is enriched because of this new learning.

Security Systems

Sometimes, you hear stories in the news about totally laughable bank robberies where things don't go as planned. This conversation just might be one of them. I had a great time planning and recording this conversation for my site: Enjoy:

Mail service

When I ask students how many of them have sent a letter by regular mail recently, I often get blank stares. It seems that almost no one does that these days when services like email, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media are so prevelant.
That said, regular mail service has survived in different ways. In this video, I talk about the mail service in my area: