Like most people, I tend to spend time with people who are like me. The friends and colleagues who I most often find myself hanging out with and speaking to usually share similar interests, have the same values as I do, come from a background like mine, or are in the same season of life as I am.
As speaker and author Bill Treasurer explains it, “It’s natural to gravitate toward, and develop bonds with, people who look like, talk like, and think like we do… It’s just plain easy to want to be around members of one’s own tribe.” It may be natural, yes, but as Treasurer goes on to say, “It’s also just plain dangerous.”
By seeking out and preferring “duplicates” of ourselves, we inevitably exclude and pass over anyone who is too far outside our circle of comfort. And by doing so, we also pass up incredible opportunities, varied perspectives, new ideas, and much more.
I learned this lesson in an interesting way—and thankfully, not the hard way!
A couple years ago when I noticed a young lady sitting near me in Starbucks, wearing a bright green ‘hoodie’ sweatshirt and studiously working away on a Macbook Pro, I normally wouldn’t have given her a second thought. By all appearances, she was very different than those I normally chose to associate with. It seemed obvious that we didn’t have much in common, other than our choice in coffee shops and laptops. However, for whatever reason, I chose to say “Hello.” We exchanged the normal ten seconds or so worth of pleasantries between strangers, and then both went on our way.
Little did I know, that brief exchange would lead to a much longer conversation the next week, which would then lead to a long term, extremely rewarding working relationship. This young lady, who I initially perceived to be far different than I—in age, gender, style, experience, background, socioeconomic status, and much more—has turned out to be one of my most respected and appreciated friends and colleagues!
And I would have never known her or known her incredible talents and abilities had I not given ‘different’ a chance. It’s a lesson I am so glad I learned in such a surprising and rewarding way.
How about you, are you willing to give ‘different’ a chance? The outcome could really surprise you!