I often wonder if we error when we say our views and beliefs are our own. Are we truly able to form original views and beliefs if our social lens is shaped by pre-determined, socially sustained influencers like culture, religion, race, education and economic status?
By simple definition, social lens refers to how we view a situation, others and the world around us. It serves to frame our belief system. Our social lens is a by-product of a sophisticated socialization process. A process with categories created and perpetuated by society. I believe our social lens functions as a compass for our convictions and beliefs and determines how we respond and interact with others. Religion is an example of a category that shapes our social lens. It frames our actions, how we navigate the world, what we think of others and how we raise our families.
What separates us from robots is our ability to expand and grow our social lens. Here are my recommendations on how to do so:
Go Inward. Take an introspective look at your beliefs and value systems. Ask “why do I see things this way.” Think about your influences and assess what social constructs shape your decisions and actions. Doing this helps you to become self-aware – which helps when working with others who may not share the same lens. Becoming aware of your lens can be cathartic and a necessary growth exercise.
Skip The Right-Wrong Stance. A person becomes more aware of her lens when that lens is challenged. By nature, we posture defensively when we feel like our lens and beliefs are being interrogated. Other’s view or lens may not be ‘wrong’ just as yours may not be ‘right.’ It is ok to consider something that counters your lens. Trust me, your brain will not explode if you open it for a few moments to consider something different.
Construct Conjunctions. Use “both/and” instead of “either/or.” Both/and indicates that the two views are equally presented and included. It opens to a new thought and expanded lens. Either/or says only one can be selected or true. Expanding a social lens requires a both/and challenge. A lens has the capacity to hold two parallel thoughts. Consider a Democrat with conservative views and an outgoing introvert.
Try New Shades. What does this mean? It means try on something new like a new pair of shades. With new shades, the view looks different and your perspective may change or expand. For example, watch a news channel that has a different political view. Doing so deepens thought, expands or confirms your social lens and equips you to relate with others even when his or her social lens is not the same as yours.
It is perfectly fine to hold strong to your social lens and convictions, however your biggest growth comes when you seek to understand a lens that differs from yours.