Had lunch with a very impressive business associate yesterday. She’s a flaming liberal. I’m not. She loves Hillary. I don’t. She’s also smart, kind and funny. She has a strong work ethic and a good head on her shoulders. She has leadership potential. That’s all far more important to me than her politics. We need more like her in the world.

My brother is an ordained minister. I’m not into the religion game. We’ve had many differences over the years – some pretty big ones, actually – but our faith has never been one of them. Why? I know it’s important to him and he knows he can’t change me. So we leave it alone. I guess our relationship matters more.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying, “Why can’t we all just get along?” There are good reasons to debate, to conflict, to argue. There are good reasons to be passionate about things that matter to us. The freedom to voice our opinions and openly debate without fear of retribution is what makes us a great society.

I have certain principles and viewpoints I feel strongly about, but I realize that others have their own. I try not to judge, lest they judge me. I don’t think it’s wise to shut them out, lest they shut me out. Listening to each other – challenging each other’s views, even our own (especially our own) – is how we learn.

I’m not exactly a Pollyanna type, but I’ve always found more to like than dislike in people. Not all, but most. I can usually find something to relate to. That doesn’t mean I trust them with the keys to my home. I’ve been burned a few times and learned some lessons, but that comes with the territory. You can’t learn to walk without falling down.

It’s the differences that make each of us unique. That’s what makes us human. You can marry yourself to a certain belief system if you like, but if that causes you to label those who disagree and shut them out, you risk cutting yourself off from whatever beneficial insights and opportunities they may offer.

My favorite example is those who say, “Life is too short to work with jerks.” I’ve found that those who revel in calling others jerks or more colorful pejoratives are oftentimes the pot calling the kettle black. Sadly, they lack the self-awareness to see it and their narrow-mindedness ensures that they never do.

That’s called self-limiting behavior. It holds them back.

The willingness to be open, to engage, to relate to all sorts of people on many different levels is an enormously beneficial skillset. If it comes naturally to you, that’s even better.

Image credit Mait Juriado Flickr