Several years ago my husband took up skeet shooting and quickly hoped I would participate too.
Guns had never held any interest for me. The very thought of firing a shotgun made me cringe. Still, I recognized this was an activity the two of us could share — so I bit the shotgun shell, donned a bright pink ammo bag and headed out to the range.
Skeet shooting was a colossal leap out of my comfort zone.
I’ve never, ever been a hunter. Instead, I’m a wildlife enthusiast who identifies flowers and birds wherever I hike. I’m also left-leaning in my politics. The NRA and I are usually at opposite ends of the voting spectrum.
But a funny thing happened at the skeet range: I met some terrific folks. I’ve gotten to know men and women who wouldn’t otherwise have crossed my path. We’ve laughed at our missed shots, then high-fived our best rounds. We routinely share updates on our jobs and families.
All the shooters I’ve met are gun enthusiasts. They’re extremely conscientious about how they handle their firearms and adhere to strict safety standards for themselves and everyone else at the range.
None of us broaches politics when we’re together. Politics are simply sanctioned arguing, and nobody wants to ruin a fun afternoon. Nor do I share my thoughts about hunting. These friends and I can be different and still enjoy being together.
Each of these people has enriched my life. They’ve broadened my perspective and uncovered prejudices I didn’t know I had. I’ve realized it’s easy to label others as wrong and narrow while my own beliefs are equally constrained.
What would happen if we all stepped out of our comfort zones and reached across the psychological aisle? We’d definitely meet new friends and make the world a better place in the process.
How to step out of your comfort zone
Recognize your personal biases. These are the issues that get you worked up or put you on the defensive. This doesn’t mean your values are wrong, only that you harbor strong feelings about them.
Be willing to take the first step. Attend a rally for a cause you disagree with, or visit a church of another faith. Carefully listen and observe. Remember, these people think they’re right, too.
Keep the atmosphere pleasant. Talk to the people around you. Ask what they do to relax or celebrate holidays. Steer clear of potentially contentious topics.
Don’t try to change things. Respect their opinions. Honor your differences. Keep your thoughts to yourself.
Minimize expectations. Let go of any agenda. The only goal is to have a successful interaction.