Have you ever had someone tell you, “You’re weird; you aren’t like everyone else?” If so, how did it make you feel? Did it upset you? Did it frustrate you, resulting in a hateful response and your ultimate flight from the situation? Or after pondering over such a statement, did you realize and readily admit that in reality you are weird? Perhaps you came to the conclusion that in essence everyone is weird, no two people are exactly alike, and you accepted the fact that you aren’t like everyone else.
If we carefully examine situations such as this, we realize that in actuality nothing can be truly classified as weird. One’s definition of what makes something weird is based on personal understanding and perception. One person’s definition of the word may be completely different from another’s. Some might define weird as an individual who exhibits different qualities, and because those qualities are not what they define as “normal,” that individual is considered weird or odd. One particular definition found in the Merriam and Webster dictionary is of strange or extraordinary character. Interestingly, synonyms associated with this M&W definition include odd and fantastic.
In essence, “weird” simply means that one is different. We all have our own personal perks and quirks. We have diverse backgrounds, beliefs, talents, interests, education and experiences. As Desmond Tutu, an advocate for social rights, once said, “We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity.” So we live in a world where everyone is different. Who we are is impacted by two things: our biological characteristics and our life experiences and the choices we make when faced with those experiences. Therefore, we are engineered to be weird. We are meant to be different and different can be a good thing. The struggle is learning to accept our individual uniqueness and to respect the diversity of others.
Diversity is a continuous topic of conversation in our society, we cannot escape. Every day we are exposed to new stories and situations, both socially and professionally, that center on diversity. In the professional world, truly successful businesses are ones which strive to create an environment of respect for individual diversity. They are organizations that from the beginning set the goal of developing a culture of mutual respect and cooperation. Such organizations also understand that this goal can only be achieved through the efforts of all individuals contributing to the creation of a work environment where mutual respect and cooperation are the norm and not the rule. They know that regardless of title, duties or responsibilities each member of an organization has the responsibility to create a pleasant and enjoyable work setting by finding ways to accept and interact satisfactorily with others.
This same mentality applies to our personal lives. We will live a happier and more joyful life if the culture and environment in which we live and associate with others is built on mutual respect and cooperation. Mahatma Gandhi, a man who strived to create a culture of mutual respect and cooperation, said in simple terms, “Where there is love there is life.” We must demonstrate our love for life by loving others. This means making the decision to accept and respect others regardless of their differences. What are the keys to developing a culture of mutual respect and cooperation? Consider the following:
Decide – Decide now to build an environment in your personal and professional life that promotes mutual respect and cooperation.
Include – Include and accept individuals as part of your life regardless of their race, color, sex, genetic information, religion, age, national origin, citizenship status, veteran status, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, gender dysphoria or any other legally protected status as well as their personality, opinions, likes, dislikes, socioeconomic status, habits, etc. In your professional life, focus on each individual’s ability to perform required duties and fulfill the expectations of the organization.
Value – Recognize the value that unique individual knowledge, education, experiences, talents and abilities can bring to you personally and professionally and use them to your advantage.
Empathy – Demonstrate empathy for diverse backgrounds by understanding individual needs and feelings.
Respect – Respect the fact that others may have viewpoints, opinions, beliefs and personalities that conflict with yours and that it is okay to accept individuals without necessarily agreeing with them.
Self-awareness – Understand your own unique talents, skills, abilities, background, culture, biases, prejudices and stereotyping in order to effectively interact with, manage, lead and love others.
Inform – When concerns regarding treatment, fairness and diversity are brought to your attention, respond appropriately and when the nature of the concern requires it, report it to the appropriate individuals so such matters can be investigated and appropriate action taken. If you are responsible for investigating such concerns, be objective and take appropriate steps to address and resolve those concerns as quickly as possible.
Teach – Teach others about the importance of developing an environment of mutual respect and cooperation and the impact that such an atmosphere will have on their personal life and career.
You – Remember it all begins with you. Your decisions and actions will make the difference. You hold the key to creating an environment of mutual respect and cooperation.
In conclusion, remember that it’s okay to be weird. Being weird, as defined by Merriam and Webster, means we are EXTRAORDINARILY FANTASTIC. Dr. Seuss, a man who unquestionably created some of the weirdest characters in the history of literature, put it this way, “We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness.” In other words, weirdness—or diversity—brings us together; it unites us. Diversity is a key element in building that unity, and unity is crucial to maintaining an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation.