What We Do Not Understand Can Hurt Us

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

~Mari Curie

Given the recent tragedy surrounding George Floyd’s death, I realize more than ever that what we do not understand can hurt us. This past week, I was blessed to speak with many I consider allies. Why? They are my white colleagues who feel the pain and plight of African Americans, and they are inspired to understand our lens more deeply and to take deliberate action to use their influence to promote change.

The most impressive thing about these allies is that they want to fall on the sword for a battle they did not start. Nonetheless, they realize we all have a role to play and they are not cowering.

The work that I do around uncovering and using the voices of employees is a way for me to help organizational leaders understand what their people need from them to have better more magnetic experiences at work. It is my seeking to understand, the leaders’ willingness to allow this work and the employees’ openness to share their truths that make my venture successful.

If we are to learn from and change from George Floyd’s death, we must seek to understand each view, because what we do not understand can hurt us. Not knowing means we fear it. Then, we must all be seekers of the truth and proclaimers of love, compassion, and unity. We must stand in one another’s shoes and embrace the allies among us. Despite it all, we must be courageous in this battle to rid the world of narrow-minded, fear-filled thinking, and replace it with an openness to listen to understand.

Some time back, my daughter chose to deliver a Malcolm X speech to a class that was predominantly white. Before choosing that speech, she did not know much of his life. While learning more, she sought to understand his struggle and the stories he shared of teachers who told him he would amount to nothing. She was attracted to his struggle, because she struggled with learning delays, and was often surrounded by people who implied she could not do certain things.

She felt his pain, and she felt compelled to share his story. Her courage while reciting his speech was palpable to her classmates and teacher. Her teacher commented about how well she did, but as she recalled, he was obviously uncomfortable and defensive given some of Malcolm X’s rhetoric. No matter, after pondering her talk for days, he decided that they would study more about black history the following semester. In the end, my daughter felt validated.

We must all set our intent to listen more actively to what others are saying. We must all set our hearts to feel more of what others are feeling. Therefore, let us all seek to understand countering views and embrace the enlightening differences. Set out to include voices you might not ever think to invite into an ever-expanding conversation. Broach topics that make you uncomfortable for the sake of learning.

My daughter’s courage brought on change, and it all started with her desire to understand more about a man who would be an unlikely story for her to tell. What we do not understand can hurt us, and what we seek to understand and share with others can set us free!


Heather Younger
Heather Younger
Heather Younger gets it. As a best-selling author, international TEDx speaker, podcast host, facilitator, and Forbes Coaches Council coach, she has earned her reputation as “The Employee Whisperer”. Her experiences as a CEO, entrepreneur, manager, attorney, writer, coach, listener, speaker, collaborator and mother all lend themselves to a laser-focused clarity into what makes employees of organizations and companies – large and small - tick. Heather has facilitated more than 150 workshops, reaching +100 employers and their employees. Her motivation and philosophy have reached more than 20,000 attendees at her speaking engagements on large and small stages. Companies have charted their future course based on her leading more than 100 focus groups. In addition, she has helped companies see double-digit employee engagement score increases through the implementation of her laws and philosophies. She has driven results in a multitude of industries, including banking, oil & gas, construction, energy, and federal and local government. Heather brings a tenacious and inspirational outlook to issues plaguing the workforces of today. Her book “The 7 Intuitive Laws of Employee Loyalty” hit the Forbes Must-Read list and is a go-to source for HR professionals seeking insight into their organization's dynamics. Heather’s writing can also be found on her blog at EmployeFanatix, as well as articles in Forbes, Huffington Post, Thrive Global, American Express Open Forum, and more. Coupled with her Leadership with Heart podcast, weekly videos, and employer newsletters, Heather stays connected to organizations long after she leaves the stage or conference roomWhen all the emails are returned and the mic is turned off, and Heather acts as co-manager of her busy household in Aurora, Colorado with her husband, where they oversee their four children.

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  1. Wow… so true, Heather! I’ve really been struggling with my role in perpetuating the problem as well as my role in creating a solution. Your point about the “scary unknown” is such a good one. We don’t like uncertainty. The brain processes uncertainty as a potential threat and we don’t do our best thinking when we are in survival mode. This is such a great reminder that we need to get comfortable being uncomfortable for the sake of enlightened learning. Thank you for sharing this one!

  2. Heather: “…we must all be seekers of the truth.” My father often cited the expression ‘Don’t believe everything you are told.’ It’s so easy today to accept as a given what we read or see. We have to be more curious; we have to be more open to exploring differences.
    Great message here, thank you.

  3. I am so grateful for that teacher’s thoughtful response after, to take time to consider why he was uncomfortable, and to realize his students would benefit from his realization.
    And of course, I’m so proud to know your girl – and you – because you are such outstanding leaders and educators, making people comfortable to get uncomfortable in these conversations.
    If we can just approach these conversations with curiosity, and value & love our differences for the beauty they bring to our lives and communities, we will see lasting change.

  4. Thanks, Heather.

    No matter how apparently different we may be – any of us – we always share more than we differ. If we believe (and there’s plenty of research as well as experience to support this idea) that humans’ default setting is to learn and connect, then our work as teachers, facilitators, leaders, and parents includes finding and helping people jettison the crap that blocks that light.

    In my work, I have found perhaps a dozen (out of over 30,000 so far) people who wouldn’t take the opportunity to learn and grow. Really.
    So what we do (and may not even realize) in our work, is create a context for safety (vis à vis Maslow). Once that context is alive, folks always move toward exploration and even willingness to question their own assumptions. It’s beautiful and, best of all, it’s natural.

    Anyhow, here’s the link to the new podcast, back2different, about coming out of the pandemic like coming out of the carwash: better.

    I suspect we could have a wonderful conversation. Let’s talk.

    Be good. And well.


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