On November 16th each year, the world comes together to celebrate the International Day for Tolerance. In 1995, UNESCO declared the annual observance day to generate public awareness about the dangers of intolerance. At a time where polarisation is becoming the norm across the globe, alongside outright injustice and disregard for individual rights, tolerance – the positive effort to understand another’s beliefs and habits without necessarily agreeing with them – is a practice that is more important than ever. For this year’s International Day for Tolerance, here are 5 ways you can celebrate.
1) Learn About Other Cultures
Hong Kong, like other global destinations, is an incredibly diverse city made up of many different populations, where East often meets West. If you happen to come across someone else with a different background, or walk past a community that is different to you, why not take the time to learn a bit about their culture? While you might discover new habits and traditions that you have never heard of, or may even disagree with, this is a big part of what tolerance is about. And the beauty of diversity is that perhaps you’ll end up being surprised by the number of things different cultures share.
2) Think A Difficult Thought
Challenge your mind. We often get stuck in a certain rhythm or mindset that repeats what we already believe in, or what we think we know. To approach the world with tolerance requires recognising that different opinions, no matter how difficult it is to accept, exist and are allowed to exist. Thinking about non-familiar ideas is a great way to practice tolerance.
3) Try To Empathise
Empathy is about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. To truly attempt to understand where someone else is coming from requires looking at the world from another person’s perspective. Actively listen to another person, even if their opinions are on the other end of the spectrum. Ask questions if you don’t understand, and keep asking until you can get a better idea. Accept that others’ can legitimately hold opinions and empathise with their viewpoint as much as possible.
4) Use “I” Instead Of “You”
In everyday conversations, try to use the phrase “I” instead of “you”. Language does matter: when we speak using “I” statements, we are taking responsibility for our own emotions and opinions. Identifying that our feelings are ours, rather than addressing or assuming what someone else is feeling is important. Perception is reality, meaning that when it comes to non-universal beliefs, there is no “fundamental truth” to be shared and accepted by all. Each and every one of us filters the world through our own lens. So keeping this in mind when we communicate is core to being tolerant.
5) Remember How Much We All Have In Common
In the middle of these trying times, where the world is more polarised than ever, a big part of tolerance is reminding ourselves how much we still have in common. No, not just physically, but also in that we are humans striving for a better world, who believe in equality and share common values. We all love the beautiful natural wonders of our planet, the animals inhabiting it, and the rich history of cultures around the world. Let’s remember our shared humanity, and lead our lives accordingly with tolerance.
Lead image courtesy of CAN Stock Photo.