The gap is such a powerful feeling that I never know what to do with. It takes but a second to strike, but once it does, it lingers for hours.
It often starts with a normal conversation or group hangout. Things are normal…I’m engaged and life is great. I’m in the moment. Then someone says or does something and this giant, massive void opens up between us. It could be an off-hand comment or a well-intentioned joke. But once spoken, everything changes. I realize how different they are from me. Depending on who I’m with, it can feel like it’s the whole group vs me. I wonder if I’m at all similar to this person/group. I wonder why I even hang out with them . On a more insecure day, it creates self-doubt and I wonder if it’s intentional — do they really view me so differently? Will I ever truly fit in?
I assume it happens the most to people in minority situations. This doesn’t just mean ethnic minorities, but a republican spending time with democrats, a woman among a group of men, etc.
Once that huge, gaping void opens up, there’s no turning back. It’s one of those things I’ve felt at various times in my life for various reasons be it, politics, philosophy, a social issue, a racial comment, etc– and each time I’m struck by what a completely intense, overpowering, and lonely feeling it is.
5/27/13 – I know what I’m describing here, but I can’t remember the last time this truly happened. I wonder if it’s because I don’t pay as much attention these days or if I surround myself with a more narrow group of people?
Oh my god, totally happened this weekend. I was talking to an acquaintance in DC about a stick figure on the back of my business card. He asked if I was playing hang man. I said, no I stopped playing hang man. He said, "Why, do you think it's racist?" and I said, "yeah." and he laughed this really long laugh while I squirmed there not knowing what to say. So I didn't say anything. Anyways, I recounted this story to a friend later that evening who I thought was a 'critical thinker' but as soon as I retold this story, his response was, "I would have laughed too. It's not racist." And I had to totally bite my tongue cuz I realized right then and there, that I had forgotten that this friend didn't think like me. And I didn't see this friend the rest of the weekend I was in DC….
Hope SF is treating you well. 😉
When my son was born with Down Syndrome is when I first experienced what I would consider the Gap you speak of in my life. A single word took on new meaning, most people aren't being malicious when they use it and most don't realize the impact it can have.
But when spoken it now freezes me, and nothing else they say has the same meaning.
My approach to these situations has changed over time; If I feel the person is worth saving, if I believe they were brought up in a way where this was common place, and if I think they're smart enough to understand and make a change in their fundamental makeup.
I stop them, not in an aggressive or angry way. Not with disappointment, or judgment. Simply by asking them to think about what they said and let them know how it might be taken by someone they know and may consider a friend.
Usually they apologize, which is also not the intended result. I tell them don't be sorry, just give pause before you say something or someone is Retarded. Because it's really not the word you were searching for given the context.
One by one, by talking to people and asking them to stop and think before they speak I believe we can close the Gaps.
The mysterious and vague science of space and time, building awkward moments with people, certainly makes life interesting. I would mix your 'gap' concept with Gladwell's "thin slicing" and 'Blink' perspectives. They have the right ingredients to analyze communication and thoughts regarding the aura of where one 'fits' and how the silent battle of thoughts/energy and how words are produced/materialized into the air around you. Wow, deep thoughts. The simple becoming complicated, fun stuff, ha. Breath, be courteous, respectful, and courageous, even when idiots 'throw rocks in your pond' and distract with distasteful and disrespectful banter. Let me know of any recent 'gap' moments, I have them daily, ha! Rock on!
It seems as if you join the other ambitious persons that don't sleep and burn the candle at both ends to accomplish goals and dreams?! I too seek to build, create, and find purpose/value where I 'fit'! You have many great accomplishments – rutgers prez, creative, writing/blogging/marketing/mind stirring constantly, innovative, setting history as a young brand manger (where I am seeking to earn an opportunity at P&G – any advice is appreciated, just don't tell me to 'go online' or keep persistent or don't bother, ha), look forward to your book and the witty 'malcolm gladwell like' perspectives (stories with backed up data to support it, P&G trained you well, ha), and wanted to mention 'thanks for the inspiration', your resume alone is inspiration for me to continue my pursuits… so thanks. ps what email can I utilize to add you to my linked in prof? look forward to how you lead efforts to build linkedin as the social networking model for professionals/'adult' networking/connecting, and advertising one's resume (plus it's cool because work filters such as at GE aren't blocking it.. yet ; ) later my ambitiously talented acquaintance!
Brian Siegel, Cincinnati, OH, GE, XU MBA, and fellow 'adventuring venturer"