How do you move through the world?
Depending on our demographic, we all walk through the world in a slightly different way and monitor our behaviour accordingly. Most of the time we are completely unaware that we are doing it. And very often we are unaware that a specific behaviour of ours is related to the demographic that we fall into.
Here is an example of one way that I monitor myself:
I’m walking a dog (the beautiful Millie) through a park, it’s about 6pm. As a start on my usual route going around the outside of a large field, the sun goes down. I immediately change my route and start walking closer to the buildings where I know there are people inside, instead of going around the field. I take out one of my earbuds so I have one ear free.
As I get to a playground, I lie down on a swing chair to give pup a break. I only put my head down for a few seconds then realise that my back is towards the path, so I sit back up and continue walking. I walk past a man who is alone sitting down on the grass. I don’t change my route but keep one eye on him as I walk past.
Now these are tiny things. I was completely fine and made it back to Millie’s home okay with a very happy pup. I still had a relaxing walk, but not a completely relaxing walk. I was alert. I’m sure that many of you can relate to this. Thinking twice about walking home alone at night or crossing the street as someone comes towards you. It is a very common thing.
I think an essential part of standing in someone else's shoes or truely including everyone is to SHARE these stories. My partner, a tall strong Pākehā male, would never have experienced this himself.
You don’t know what you don’t know
By sharing this with him, he might then think twice if he is walking behind a woman by herself at night. He might know cross the road himself, to smile, get out his phone and pretend to talk to someone or to wait until she is a block ahead of him to keep walking. He would think about if that was me, what could he do to make me feel safe (obviously he knows that he is safe, but how is she meant to know that).
Becoming aware of what others are going through means that you can then monitor your own behaviour to help them feel more comfortable or give them extra support.
There are a range of triggers that we all have and can be influenced by our age, race, gender, spirituality, sexuality or general life experiences. It could be the alertness of how we feel around police due to their possible perception of us, monitoring who we let know about our sexuality due to fear of comments, worrying about how to access a new building because of our physical ability or changing our walking route to somewhere more familiar.
Simply being aware of what other people are going through is the key to an inclusive and supportive community.
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