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The “Other” and Us: Enriching our Life From Our Interactions with Others

Updated on August 29, 2011

Respect Breeds Respect

When It comes to making the world a better place, we need to realize that we don’t need to reach far in order to affect the world and ourselves in a positive way.

There are many instances when, in dealing with people, that I’ve noticed that most of the time people are hungering for attention, for conversation, or for someone to make them feel special. For example, whenever I witness an exchange in which a person pays a compliment to another, and the person receiving the compliment lights up in optimism, it inspires me to do the same. We can always compliment people for their skills, hard work, looks and so on. It’s very easy to do this, and the rewards for them and for us are permanent.

According to Emmanuel Levinas, “that which is outside us, and that which we acknowledge as strange, takes us beyond ourselves and beyond our common sense.” That is, during our interaction with other people, we have an opportunity to be “good” or to be “bad,” to be ethical or unethical, and all it takes is an exchange between two people. According to Levinas, we come face to face with people on a daily basis and we can treat them in many different ways, but one of them, and the one that is the most ethical, is to treat them as the “Other.” In other worlds, to treat people as the “Other” involves stripping ourselves of any selfishness and become open to the other person’s feelings, dreams, ideas and values. To treat others as the “Other,” involves a sort of empathy and respect.

But it seems that most of us are afraid of the “Other.” The “Other” will change us, and we are afraid of change. We are often suspicious of the “Other”. We are so stubborn about our own beliefs that we don’t want to listen to other people’s ideas.However, change should be seen as a challenge, as an opportunity to become better and more open-minded; a challenge to understand people and to connect with them on a higher level. Facing the “Other” ca make us stronger and more humane because, in finding the “Other” we find ourselves.

It is a wonderful feeling to get to know another person, their fears and insecurities, their values and beliefs; maybe because in the process we get to know ourselves better. When we talked to people without judgment and prejudice, we are able to see things from their perspective and learn that the world is full of new things that we can discover. Indeed, the world is an amalgam of the interrelationship between people, and sometimes our happiness depends on the happiness of others. But the most important thing to know is that we are all part of this world and that we must try to understand one another, because this is what will, ultimately, “change us.”

Campbell Jones et al., For Business Ethics 2005.


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