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Native Wisdom, Part 2: It takes a long time to get to know someone

“It takes a long time to get to know someone,” I heard my Father say. He was musing about two close friends who had erupted into battle. After a long heated argument, the two friends determined that the quarrel was the result of a simple misunderstanding. My father waxed philosophically about how two people who presumably knew each other so well could not comprehend the other’s perspective, or even be curious enough to explore it to avert the meltdown.

We act as if our assumptions about the world are correct. We are wandering through this world, operating “as if” what we perceive and believe is true. Our perceptions are shadows cast from our filters. Our filters are formed from what others tell us, what we read, and our experiences. Hardly the most thorough methodology.

The differences in how people view the world can be just as humorous as they are disconcerting. The classic comedy by Abbott and Costello, “Who’s on First,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTcRRaXV-fg is an example of two individuals operating with two fundamentally different belief systems, yet failing to comprehend and address this difference. It’s funny because it’s true.

This weekend would have been my Father’s 90th birthday. My Mother and my Father had me very late in life, so our time together was short. He was Cherokee (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and a tribal elder), had a high school education, was US Marine Sniper in World War II, and a Teamsters Union representative who spent 30 years delivering vehicles to various locations across the United States. He saw a lot, and saw through a lot. Although he wanted me to be a lawyer, his humor, wry perspective, insight, and keen intelligence instead formed me into a psychologist. Through the process of becoming a psychologist, leader, and then a coach of leaders, I found that the more I know, the more I know I don’t know. Yet, his Native Wisdom rings true: It does take a long time to get to know someone. Next time in the heat of a battle, pausing, reflecting, and being curious might be something to explore. Ask yourself some questions: What do you believe about the world? What are your assumptions? Where do they come from and for what purpose do the serve? Perhaps the person it takes the longest to know is ourselves.

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