Published on: May 9, 2017by Michael Sansolo
It’s time for a mea culpa here: despite my endless calls for diverse points of view inside of companies and teams, I struggle as much as anyone when it comes to engaging people who aren’t really like me.
The simple truth is that most of the people I interact with on a regular basis are pretty similar to me in outlook, economic and educational standing. So I found it pretty eye opening this week to have to literally and figuratively cross the tracks at home to a visit a very different kind of neighborhood.
First some background: recently, Kevin wrote a sweet note about his upcoming 34th anniversary of his wedding to Mrs. Content Guy. He explained that thanks to unfortunate circumstances (his washer, dryer and dishwasher all conking out within weeks of each other), they chose to give other appliances to celebrate the date.
Just like that, he cursed me. With my 34th anniversary a few weeks off, my washing machine died and my wife and I were suddenly copying the Coupes for presents. There’s one wrinkle though: our washing machine of choice is on back order, so for three weeks we’ll have to go without.
That meant a trip to the Laundromat for the first time in many years, except for occasional emergencies while traveling.
Driving just six miles from home, I was out of my element and suddenly in a very different world. First off, I had no idea how things worked. For instance it was pointless that I came armed with quarters. Today you load money on a card and use that in the machine.
Second, there was no Wi-Fi available. More surprisingly I was the only patron playing games and reading the news on a smartphone. Everyone else seemed content with conversation, magazines and newspapers; choices I thought no one made anymore.
And third, and least surprising, was the relative lack of English. The neighborhood I visited is largely Hispanic, so every television and conversation was in Spanish. That reality was apparent throughout the strip center around me.
So why does this matter?
It was a good reminder to me that I need get out of my comfort zone more often. Here I was six miles from home and just discovering a very interesting shopping center with many stores and merchandising techniques I don’t see often enough. With a little effort, imagine what I might learn so I’m committed to some return visits to see those very stores.
It also was almost an embarrassing reminder about shopper diversity. I’d bet that most of the folks in the Laundromat aren’t temporarily awaiting a new machine like me. This is their on-going reality. I’m curious what I might learn on my visits if I can find easy ways to engage others in conversation. (One bonus of the trip was finding that my Spanish skills are better than I thought. I was perfectly able to understand some of the television shows, especially the woman giving detailed insights on birth signs. Apparently I’m supposed to open my heart to love! Who knew?)
The only downside to this learning is personal. Once my wife reads this blog it’s obvious who is going to be doing the laundry for the next few weeks.
No pain, no gain.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at email@example.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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