TED Conversations

Caroline Phillips

CEO/President, Entrepreneur & muscian


This conversation is closed.

What can we do, as citizens to promote tolerance in our daily lives ?

You're in a meeting. Someone tells a joke ... it's about a jew, a black guy, that pushy feminist, that gay guy... What do you do ?

You're waiting in line and you see someone ethnic/different being badly treated by a bank teller/government worker/cashier.

You're at a party where Dave, your friend's husband is gay-bashing again.

At school, you hear a kid use a racial epithet when yelling at another kid.

What kind of attitude do you adopt ?
If you do say something... what do you say ?
How can and does your behavior affect others ?

If you have stood up for the underdog and for tolerance, how did it affect your relationship with friends, clients, business partners or significant others ?

Tolerance ... definition :
"The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others."


Closing Statement from Caroline Phillips

Thank you all for your wonderful contributions to this conversation about Tolerance with a capital "T".

I've learned quite a bit from you and I think it's a wonderful testimony to the magic of TED that so many nationalities participated in this conversation. I feel a lot like Mary Saville : I too tend to get too emotional and engaged about intolerant things I'm hearing so I can produce the opposite effect and be too agressive and intolerant. I'll aspire to be more like Robert Jaffe when adressing intolerant people, to react swiftly but not humiliate.

Susan B. writes "Standing up for the underdog, does not make life happy for you. You are looked at as not being a team player, going against the norm and going against the grain."

My concluding thoughts : Unfortunately I don't live in a "TED world", so standing up for the underdog will often be a perilous endavour, but I'm willing to take the chance.

Hugs to all.

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    Apr 25 2011: What an important question, Caroline!

    I like an attitude of "assertive empathy." My reaction depends on the situation and people involved, as well as my own tolerance at the moment. If I'm feeling depleted by the persons persistent affect, behaviors or larger cultural ubiquity of the intolerance, I'll tend to be sharper in my response.

    A more effective outcome comes those times I seek insight by inquiring and dialoguing in ways that relate without offending. Favorite phrases I like to ask are: "And who is that you love who is ____? Or (....) "has been ostracized because they were _____?" Or "Which of your neighbors/colleagues, etc. is, despite your differences, is someone you respect or have benefited from?"

    If the person struggles to answer and I know them, I'll point out some person or experience we share in common that fits.

    I've asked everyone from politicians to children questions along these lines. Most are initially defensive and this requires I hold back my impulse to disprove them. But many stop and think. And some even go so far as develop examples that counter their disparaging comment or view. I've witnessed a few use their discovery in future conversations.

    The best outcome occurs when they, not I, "correct" their views. And it's not uncommon in these dialogues that my views are further developed, if not corrected, too. In any case, I am invariably "rewarded" by the unfolding insights by the reminder to consider my own intolerance -- particularly towards those who are quick to judge.

    As a bonus this all gives me some hope that when I need tolerance, I might get some too!


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