German Velasco is an author and lecturer whose work is directed at enhancing individual and organizational effectiveness in a diverse world by providing tools for communication and understanding across cultural differences. In his work German Velasco offers strategic visions, counsel and creative solutions that stimulate fairness, justice and well-being.
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Most recent article:
How Our Preconceptions Can be Limiting
Baby meets tree in a nicely illustrated childrens’ book or—as often happens—a parent points at a tree and carefully pronounces the word tree. Most likely, that baby will become an adult and will never have the experience of discovering a tree in his life. From that moment onwards the child grasps the concept of tree.
Grasping and creating a concept of something is a very practical, useful and unconscious mechanism to learn quickly about the world around us. We use concepts and we trust those concepts in our daily life. When you are driving down a road and you see a massive tree separating the lanes of the road, you don’t ignore the tree. You avoid it. And you don’t stop and touch, smell and look at the details of the tree in order to confirm that indeed the object is a tree.
Now if you were driving down the same road and instead of the tree you saw an amorphous dense pink cloud the size of a bus—part vapor, part water, part thin, metal-like cloth, almost solid yet apparently soft like a skinless gigantic water balloon of undecipherable texture—no concept for this thing would be available in your internal library.
Our internal database allows us to feel comfortable in the world by understanding most things around us, or at least it allows us to have that impression. Thanks to this library of concepts, we don’t need to verify our reality every moment. Even if we haven’t climbed every mountain, navigated every river and touched every stone, we know what these things are.
So this library or database is a very practical mechanism that allows us to get out of our house every morning and face a normal world, rather than feeling panicked by navigating amid totally unknown surroundings. We don’t need to reconfirm that plants are plants and the pavement is solid enough to support the car we are driving (as opposed to being a soft gray sticky chewing gum.)
We relax and feel safe in familiar environments. I imagine that psychologists can explain the connection between this mechanism and our sanity. My comments here come strictly from what I have observed in my own experience. Everywhere I have been, humans like to feel a familiarity with their surroundings. On the other side of the coin, something unfamiliar can quickly start to take the shape of a potential threat. In the face of something unfamiliar, we may tense up.
A fair clarification here: I know we are all different, and among us humans there are plenty adventurers who rejoice in the adrenalized state of facing the unknown and they may even choose an entire lifestyle around that experience. I am talking about our most typical human nature.
I venture to say that the large majority of human beings unconsciously like a great deal of familiarity with their surroundings: the more familiar, the better. Most humans would probably choose to stay in their country, their town, their neighborhood, close to their nuclear and extended family, stick with the familiar pharmacist, the doctor, and send their children to the school down the road.
The trade off of this daily soothing mechanism for our psyche is that we cheat ourselves of experiencing some delightful aspects of life; some perhaps as simple as meeting a tree in all of its magnificence as a living organism by spending a full hour focused just on one single tree. The worse trade-off, however, I find is that we are so absolutely used to relying upon concepts in lieu of the actual thing that we carry this tendency to the people realm as well. We create concepts of people and we tend to label people in groups.
This grouping of people can make our lives confusing indeed. Our instinct for familiarity tends to make us trust those who look like ourselves more than other people who don’t look as much like us. This search for affinity may be expressed in racial characteristics, age, gender, dress style or any other expression of humanity. This bias toward the familiar deceives us and can even be dangerous because the foe could very well be very similar looking to oneself, while the savior could be very different looking. Until I become conscious about my automatic mechanism, I can make really bad judgements and decisions.
Understanding and acknowledging this mechanism to trust the familiar (admittedly necessary to some degree) can open up our experience of life to newer levels. It can break imaginary barriers and teach us that oftentimes, it’s not really our intuition that is turning the warning light on inside us, but only the lack of familiarity. Then, we can relax more, explore the world, travel to exotic places, meet different people, discover different ways of living life, and allow ourselves the opportunity to live more freely. Copyright: GE Velasco 2014
UPCOMING VELASCO OUTREACH SEMINARS:
Cross-Cultural Competency for the Judicial System (Presenter: German Velasco)
State of Nevada Bar Association – Las Vegas, Nevada
Tuesday September 16th