In order to challenge our assumptions about other human beings, especially those different from us, we have to get outside our circle.

We have to decide - and it will take a decision - to place ourselves, humbly and gently, in circles of people who are different from us.

And when we do ... let's not let knee-jerk reactions rule the roost.

First of all, listen.

How often do we place ourselves in unfamiliar settings and make a conscious effort to listen to other people? Their stories, their concerns, their joys?

We can practice being curious ... aim to learn new things!

We can ask open-ended, "tell me more" questions.

After we ask questions, we go right back to the start and we listen.

An expert on listening describes conversations as a game of catch - each person tossing the ball of the conversation back and forth to the other. This expert suggests that we toss the conversation ball back to the other person as quickly as we can! Force ourselves to talk less about ourselves, our opinions, our views, our beliefs. At least not as much as most of us are inclined to do.

My husband and I have been noticing how poorly people listen to each other. It feels like all we want to do is tell stories about OUR lives. Share OUR opinions, beliefs, views, thoughts.

But what if we became as good at listening to others as we are at talking about ourselves?

In the last few years, I have found myself in situations where I am privileged to engage with neighbors who are unlike me. This is life-giving.

I have become friends with gender fluid teenagers, some members of the transgender community, a whole slew of married gay friends in my neighborhood!

As I have gently listened, my heart has grown. My understanding expanded. My pre-conceived notions upended. My assumptions shattered.

My life upended.

I want to keep pushing myself - out, out, out.

How can I, how can each one of us, get outside our circle?

Because the world out there is big and so, so beautiful.

The people out there are so, so, so beautiful!