On Tolerance

by Feb 1, 2022


It goes without saying that our current world is filled with many prisms and perspectives. Most workplaces are filled with diverse individuals who come from different backgrounds and bring with them various beliefs, opinions, and ideologies. While you may see things differently than that of your colleagues or supervisors, the idea of tolerance is one which transcends the cubicle and applies to our personal lives as well as our professional ones, too. We could all benefit from the teachings of the great Thich Nhat Hanh, who sadly died recently. A beloved peace activist, thinker, writer, and devoted Buddhist monk, he discussed tolerance often. Here’s one of his relative quotes: “We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.”

He was ahead of his time and encouraged radical acceptance.

Although personal beliefs don’t always change so easily, it’s still important to emphasize the necessity of listening to opposing viewpoints with an open mind, and to create personal and professional atmospheres that aren’t antagonistic, contentious, or righteous. So, how does one do that? We’ve compiled some tips to help, because, frankly, we are curious, too.

  • Practice radical acceptance. For yourself, and others.

  • Basic conversational etiquette should be practiced. For example, listen actively, wait your turn to speak, try to avoid interruption, and allow yourself to surprise yourself. Often we are trapped in echo chambers and enter dialogues already stubborn, unwavering, staunch, and inflexible. But sometimes – if one allows it – an unprecedented experience can occur. That is, a different viewpoint, and a change of mind, whether small or large.

  • Curiosity. Meditate on that word for a moment. Having a natural curiosity (or a practiced one) can increase the ability to expand and tolerate. How do you let curiosity in?

  • Self-possession. Take ownership of your feelings. Is someone making you feel a certain way? A crabby co-worker, a stressed out boss? Well, in an ideal world, there’s no such thing. You do not have to take on their mood and can respond and not react. It’s not always easy, but we believe in you.

  • Other ways to build tolerance? Meditation, accepting change is evitable, minding your ego (that one can be hard!), practicing patience, and keeping perspective.

  • Remembering that change is inevitable and the only “constant” in life. It is paramount to enable tolerance to grow and build.

  • Did your temper, ego, or attitude get the best of you in a current situation? Explore that. Remember that progress isn’t linear, relapse happens, and to take deep breaths and step away from the situation. Also, learning to apologize the right way, is a good tool/skillset to possess as well.

  • Remember, people are more than their opinions or belief systems.

  • Bad days happen! Try not to personalize, or be extreme in your speech, and encourage the middle road. We can all do better with this.

Mindfulness reminds us to “guard against discriminative and dualistic thinking and to avoid becoming bound by any ideology.” Hanh encouraged this. In a society that is increasingly more divided and fanatical (on either side, we dare say), compassion and staying present, are great tools. Good luck out there! And remember our golden go-to: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Winnie The Pooh (another philosopher) would be proud!

This posting is brought to you by Contemporaries Inc., one of the best temp agencies in Boston MA. Also available for payrolling employees in Boston and Greater Boston

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