We’ve all heard the expression “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” yet too often we do the equivalent with people and make judgments based on one aspect of their life. The Human Library, a nonprofit based in Denmark, has combined the two concepts to create a Human Library in an effort to break down stereotypes and reduce prejudice. The goal of the project is to “un-judge someone.”

Volunteers apply to be “a human book” to represent a stigmatized group (eg: unemployed, ADHD, homeless, sexually abused, alcoholic, convert, Muslim, young mother, etc.) and then participants at a Human Library event can “check out” the book to have a 30-minute frank conversation with the person to see them beyond the label. The goal is to create a learning platform that defies stereotypes through difficult questions and understanding.

The Human Library has been fostering connections since 2000 and is now active in 80 countries. If an event is not held near you, perhaps you can adapt the idea and create something similar on your own. Having authentic conversations with any “other” goes a long way to helping to humanize them and create empathy around the differences, something we could all benefit from in these polarized times.

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