The month of May puts Indianapolis in the global and national spotlight. Depending upon your perspective, you may view the Indianapolis 500 as three hours of monotony—or as a priceless gift of non-stop excitement. I fall in the second category. Every year, whether physically at the track in my beloved Turn 4, Stand J seat or watching the race in the front row of my basement, I am filled with the excitement of not knowing what will happen next or who will be the driver to drink the cold milk after driving to victory. I even enjoy watching the race a second time after watching it live at the track! Others might view this as ridiculous and wonder, “Who would want to watch cars circle a track 200 times—whether from the IMS stands or in front of the television?!?” I would!!!
I recently heard the President of IMS say, “May is my Christmas!” I couldn’t agree more. Yet for others, May is their nightmare: too many visitors delaying seating time at restaurants, too much traffic making life on the west side impossible—you name it, it’s too much!!!! Whether it’s a debate about the merits of the Indianapolis 500 or about the state of our marriages, we often find our perspectives to be different than the perspectives of others. But different is not wrong—it’s just different! I believe the real problem with different is our refusal to sit in the conversation that is required to provide understanding. If our first response to a different opinion is defensiveness, then we’ll most likely feel that someone is telling us we are wrong. Conversely, the listener thinks we have implied they are wrong or stupid before we even know that their opinion is different. In this fast paced society (although not as fast as those Indy cars whipping around the track!), time is a precious commodity. We don’t tend to savor the chance to sit and talk with someone in an effort to understand them and be understood by them. Rather, we quickly launch an opinion and man our battle stations, leading to conversations that are faster than Indy 500 pit stops!
We must choose to value our relationships enough to be intentional when it comes to communicating. Reflective listening isn’t just a concept that served as the right answer on Communication-114 exams; it really works! In the end, differences don’t become the problem, but rather an opportunity to grow in our relationships with others. Just as the 33 drivers don’t just “show up” on race day, choosing to savor our differences takes lots of practice. In the end the experience of 200 or more laps of choosing to listen, speak, and savor the pursuit of understanding will lead to relationships that are even more satisfying than a drink of cold milk after a long, hot, grueling (and amazingly fantastic and exciting) journey around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway!