Are you missing out on connecting with people that are different from you?

Do you find yourself attracted to people similar to yourself. How many of the people you regularly connect with have a completely different view of the world to you.

Now you might have a diverse group of friends, connections and acquaintances, but I will hazard a guess that the majority of us prefer to connect with people that have similar if not the same views as ourselves. It is after all human nature. It is the primitive part of our brain (limbic system) that drives this desire to be in groups that are similar to us. I a more primitive world we needed to protect ourselves from rival tribes who may be competing for the same food sources, and territory. The issue is we do not live those primitive times anymore, and our limbic system has not evolved sufficiently to differentiate actual and perceived threat. However our frontal lobe has evolved sufficiently to make these distinctions and if used enough will become good at it.

The world we live in, is a much smaller place and the majority of us come into contact and work with people from all over the world. Healthcare is far more advanced than ever, therefore people with long-term conditions, or disabilities have much better outcomes and along with improved access are more able to contribute to the communities they work in and be part of the workforce. On top of this many societies are more liberal than ever, therefore people are empowered to express their beliefs, sexuality, and gender orientation.

Therefore our workplaces are much more diverse than they have ever been. This provides us with a unique opportunity for us all to grow and learn, not only as individuals but as a society. There is also a wonderful opportunity for organisations to be much more creative, utilising the vast array of lived experiences presented on any given day.

Now the only problem is that pesky limbic system getting in the way and trying to prevent us from embracing difference and accepting an opposing view. Biologically we cannot prevent this automatic response to difference as a potential threat. However the limbic system always refers to our memory bank before coming up with a response. Therefore it is possible to modify the response to a more inclusive inquisitive response. If your memory bank stores a memory that people you work with are not a threat to your well-being, even if they have different coloured skin, a different accent, different sexuality or even different profession. Then the most useful thing to do is to gather more information about them before making a judgement.

Even if you make a judgement about them after gathering more information and you decide you do not want a closer friendship with them, should not exclude connection, by seeing the value of their different view of the world.

Instead of seeing new people that are different to you as a threat, see a potential opportunity to learn from each other. If you want to grow as an individual, organisation and society it is vital to seek out views of the world that are different to you own. If you stick to what you know you will never grow, when all of those around you continue to.


Published by Matt Smith Personal and Professional Coach

Performance and Life Coach

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