Today I had the pleasure of sitting in on a session with Generation Citizens’ summer Community Change Fellows. This impressive group of 14-17 year-olds come from schools across Boston and Malden.
In addition to spending their summers interning at government and non-profit organizations, they spend one day a week together developing their skills for community engagement.
The topic today was leadership and consensus building. They discussed a range of leadership styles – careful, of course, not to consider any one style “right.” They talked about the strengths and weaknesses of each style – what will that person do well? Where will they need support.
I spoke briefly about my own background and experiences.
I’d been a little nervous going into it – I’m not convinced I have any particular wisdom to impart upon the world – but I was assured that teenagers would be impressed by whatever I had to say.
So, I talked about perspective taking. That is, how important it is to realize that people come from different perspectives, that their background and experiences can really drive not only what they think, but why they think that.
Too often, people assume that everyone’s coming from the same background. What seems obvious to me because of my background may be a point that would never cross someone else’s mind.
And while one can never really know what someone’s else’s life is like, there’s a lot to be said of simply acknowledging that difference. Of recognizing that what drives you isn’t necessarily what drives me.
That both perspectives are valid. It’s just that they’re…different.