Seeing the Good in People

The Lesson Was Your Reaction

There was wine.  There was a train.  There was laughing, potentially loud laughing.  And then the laughing stopped.  Then there was a hashtag and talk of a boycott and a 100% apology.  I think we all know the public details of the encounter between the Sistahs on the Reading Edge Book Club and the Napa Valley Wine Train.

So, what’s the broader lesson?  The lesson is your reaction.   There were conflicting accounts about the behavior of the women on the train.  In the absence of proof, who did you side with?  Who did you see as the offending party?  Who did you leap to defend in conversations at work or on social media?

Be Aware of Power in Social Conflict

On Facebook (yes, I too debate people on Facebook) someone said he preferred to “see the good” in the employees of the train.  He preferred to assume they weren’t racist.  I found the women’s story to be more credible.  

In truth, we were both seeing the good in people, we are just seeing it in different people.  I was assuming the best of the women kicked off the train.  He was assuming the best of those who kicked them off.

In so many of today’s social conflicts there is a conflict of interpretation between people of differing levels of power:  union workers and corporate bosses, undocumented people and conservative politicians, women who call men out for sexism and men who claim sexism doesn’t exist.

Challenge Your Defenses of Those in Power

If we defend the side in power we are defending the status quo, whether or not it benefits us.  We are siding with the big guy against the little guy.  There’s nothing noble in that.

Sometime those in power will, in fact, be right.  Often, they won’t.  But if your default position is to defend those in power, check yourself and reassess.   Look at the conflict from the position of the alleged victim instead of the alleged perpetrator.  Listen to what the person with less power has to say.  And then make up your mind.


Image: Book club members outside the wine train earlier in the day (source: CBS This Morning)



2 thoughts on “Seeing the Good in People

    • Mariah, thanks so much for your comment. If social change is to happen, we all need to look gently but critically at our own beliefs and actions and then make changes where necessary. Good luck!

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