TED Conversations

Caroline Phillips

CEO/President, Entrepreneur & muscian


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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 30 2011: For me the issue goes beyond “tolerance”. Tolerance sounds like a somewhat forced or grudging effort to overcome negative feelings. The question is how do you invite people into a relationship that you will both enjoy and from which there will be mutual benefit?
    The message I would like to get acsossis the following:
    You relationships are a mirror of your own participation in the relationship. How people show up or not in your presence is a mirror of how you invite them in to participate or keep them peripheral in your world.
    People show up fully in relationships when they feel invited, welcomed, valued and wanted. People disappear or become a nuisance when they feel shut out, rejected, looked down upon or unwelcome.
    The behaviour of a person who feels excluded and disenfranchised inevitably makes them become someone you don’t wish to engage with. Your behaviour and their response to you become mutually supporting and the assumptions that you made about them appear to be confirmed in this self-fulfilling prophecy. In such an atmosphere people feel comfortable to make demands, claim space and resources in the relationship. When people feel respected it becomes safe for them to be vulnerable and frankly reveal their differences and even idiosyncrasies.
    When people experience your interest in them they become interesting. When they feel liked and valued, they feel comfortable to be authentic. Respectful curiosity invites the other person to engage with you and express their true impressions, thoughts, needs and feelings. Security relaxes people into playfulness, creativity and gives them the safety to risk-taking initiative. Admiration invites them to show their brilliance.
    If you make people feel embraced, valued and appreciated they will show their loyalty. When you sincerely invest in people they show you their potential.
    The bigger question is how you can teach adults and childern to create enviroments where people hosted in ways that bing out the best in them?
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      Apr 30 2011: Leonard- It is clear to me that you have worked to gain a good understanding of these issues. I hope you do not mind but I will be cutting and pasting your remarks in another thread called How and Why have your strongest feelings changed Part 2.
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        May 4 2011: Thanks Debra-I take it as a compliment! I am writing a lot on these issues and hope to have a book ready soon. I have a lot of articles in similar vein posted on my website.
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      May 9 2011: Thank you Leonard for your input ! However, I don't agree on your definition of tolerance ... my definition of tolerance exactly fits the definition you find in a dictionary ...

      "The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others."
      • May 14 2011: For better and for worse, words carry both a denotation AND connotations. What the word denotes is your (correct) definition. I once saw the 'connotations' described as the barnacles the word acquires on the seas of usage (or some such). If I say that I 'tolerate' country music or opera, what do you take my mindset to be? Many attempts to legislate 'tolerance' lead not to your definition of 'tolerance', but to at best, 'tolerate-ing' as suggested by several above. I'd argue both definitions have their place in context.
        And, given our propensity to acquiesce to the legislation of our thoughts, legislated tolerance can do more harm than good - witness some of the entries above.

        As to Leonards actual points, I'll give my 2¢ worth there.
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        May 16 2011: To clarify Caroline-I was suggesting a new way of looking at the issue that goes beyond the concept of tolerance. I was not challenging the definition of the word. In fact your dictionary definition illustrates my point about the concept implying somewhat of an arms length relationship. I am suggesting an alternative way of relating to difference.
    • May 14 2011: While I agree with you in principle, in practice, it seems to me that it is a position of a … privileged few. I may yet alter these two words.

      Again, I share your views, but, thru no virtue of my own, I won the lottery. I mean the BIG Lottery - not just mere millions which statistically, I'd putz away in a few years. I was born in an upper middle class home (in Canada in my case) to loving tolerant parents, fairly well educated, and doing OK financially. I canoe a lot and often paddle past yachts worth more than my family home but none the less, world wide, I'm still probably in the top 5 percentile. (allow me to digress and include having English as my mother tongue - such an obstreperous language; thank you).

      The point is that, I feel that I have been afforded the luxury of of a background that make doing the things you listed relatively easy. I have an informal hobby of learning phrases in which ever language I find opportunity to do so. One standard target is waiters, etc. in ethnic restaurants. And, usually, I experience precisely what you refer to. My interest in their language almost always brings out the best in them. In fact, my family is sometimes embarrassed as I'm greeted in Korean or Farsi unlike most caucasians entering the premises. My admiration brings out their brilliance, as you said! I even had the confidence/temerity to greet my MD in Urdu. He was amused but responsive and shook my hand when I left - and has every time since (yes, I realize - but that's another lottery I won, I'm very resistant to most germs.).

      So, this works for some of us, but had I been born into a 'First Nations' (aboriginal) family and struggled as a second class citizen in my own land, might have had loving parents, but maybe abusive, maybe a big ugly birthmark on my cheek - alas not my butt cheek. Or maybe I was born half First Nations and accepted by neither community … 2 km from my house this is reality. They find it hard to reach out …

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