We stopped in Ottawa, IL, to see the “Shoe Tree,” on a road trip to Peoria, IL this week. As described on Roadside America (a treasure trove of the kitschy things around the US, including the locations of all of the re-appropriated Muffler Men–such as Hot Dog Man, Tire Man, etc.), the tree boasted 30 or so pairs of shoes, from ice skates, to boots, to slippers to a pair of 1970’s inspired platforms–clearly a must see in the eyes of an 8 year old.
When we came to the supposed location of the tree, at the Southern intersection of US Hwy 52 and Illinois Route 23, we had to circle the intersection several times before finding the tree.
I thought, “how random, this tree being out in the middle of nowhere (or in Yiddish, out in ‘ek velt’) followed by a really good perspective for intercultural communication: “how random, this tree being out in the middle of nowhere…FOR ME…coming from Chicago as my point of reference.” For the business around the corner, or the house across the street, this wasn’t ‘nowhere,’ it was home.
If one is from the majority culture, it can be an unconscious habit to view things from our own cultural orientation. How does your communication change if you start by identifying your ‘bias’ first. As in, “for me, as a (fill in the blank), I see it this way.” Does the empathic approach facilitate an easier ice breaker or conversation? How?