Accepting New Ideas at Work: Is Relatability Required?

Accepting New Ideas at Work: Is Relatability Required?

A few years ago, an online debate broke out about relatability and its artistic value. After attending a performance of Shakespeare’s King Lear, “This American Life” host Ira Glass tweeted about the play’s “fantastic acting” and humor – and yet his biggest takeaway was that “Shakespeare is not relatable.” In a scathing response, New Yorker staff writer Rebecca Mead took issue with what she called the “scourge of relatability” and its recent critical influence. To demand that a work be relatable sets a troubling expectation, Mead wrote, “that the work itself be somehow accommodating to, or reflective of, the experience of the reader or viewer.”

How much much do we need to relate to a text – or to people, new ideas, or even colleagues in the workplace – in order to accept and appreciate them?

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