How Do I Respect Other People’s Differences?
Growing up as a Canadian student, you have probably noticed kids in your class who may be very different from you. From different skin tones, to languages, to the kinds of food someone brings for lunch, you may be exposed to a variety of different ethnic backgrounds every day! This is one of the most exciting parts of being a Canadian! As Canadians, we are offered the very unique opportunity to learn and appreciate different cultures from all over the world, right here at home! That’s pretty cool!
However, sometimes it can be hard to accept or even understand someone that is different from us, and we might unintentionally come across as being disrespectful. Of course, no one deserves to feel disrespected or excluded because they are different from you, so it’s important to understand how to respect each other’s differences. Our Prime Minster Justin Trudeau said it best when he told us, “Canada was formed not in spite of our differences, but because of them.”
Let’s talk about how to respect each other’s differences, and why it’s important.
The easiest way to respect other people’s differences is to remember, we’re all human. Everyone needs food and water, shelter, love and friendship, the same way you do. Just because someone meets their human needs in a different way than you does not mean they are doing it the wrong way, it is just simply another way! Think about it this way, what if every channel on TV only played the exact same episode of the exact same show? There was no variety in the shows you watched, they were all identical. You would get bored pretty fast! The same is true with people! It would be a very boring world to live in if we were all exactly the same. Thankfully, we all have unique differences that we can share and celebrate! The important thing to remember is just because something is different, doesn’t mean it’s bad. Let’s explore some examples of ways you can talk about other people’s differences in a respectful way.
Today, your friend has invited you over to his house to have dinner with his family. When you get there, you see they are serving a meal that is quite different from the food you are used to having for dinner at home. Instead of saying “no” to the food, or thinking it is “not normal”, try saying something along the lines of “I’ve never had this before! But I’m willing to give it a try!” Trying new things is a great way to both respect other people’s differences, and introduce yourself to all kinds of new, exciting things you may love. (Remember, if you have a food allergy always check first to make sure the food is safe before accepting it. If you are unsure if the food is safe, do not accept it.)
A new student has joined your class. Her family has just moved to Canada from a different country, and she is wearing clothing that looks different from the clothing you and your friends are wearing. Instead of asking, “why are you dressed differently?” try saying something like, “what a beautiful dress you are wearing! I really love that colour on you.” Making others feel welcome and at home shows that you respect and appreciate the cultural beauty their differences bring.
By now, you may be thinking about all the other differences you and your friends share. Maybe you’re great at science, but your best friend excels more in art. Perhaps your neighbour is a terrific basketball player, but you prefer to spend your time reading. Are these the kind of differences you should respect, as well? The answer is yes, absolutely! A good rule of thumb is to keep an open mind about other people’s differences, and remember you wouldn’t like feeling excluded because of your differences, don’t do it to others. Our differences is what allows us to be unique and keep our world interesting and colourful, so let’s respect and celebrate them!