Surround Yourself with People Who Don’t Think Like You

Diverse opinions. Do you hear many of them? Or are you surrounded by people who think like you?

Shortly after I had posted my article last week, I received two texts of support from long-time, close and deeply loved friends.

Both had called to voice their approval (friends do that) and to offer constructive advice (friends do that too).

My Friends’ Opinions

The first friend who texted me suggested my dry humour might be off-putting to some readers. With only my wellbeing in mind, he cautioned me that my feeble attempts at sarcasm may be perceived as being mean spirited. (I love my friends, even when they’re wrong.)

The friend who texted immediately afterwards, told me how much she enjoyed my article, and added “Really enjoy your humour. That’ll keep ppl coming back for more”

Isn’t it fascinating? The article itself was about beliefs and opinions being nothing more than the meaning we attach to events in our lives, based on our past experiences. It elicited a perfect example of just that.

Surround Yourself with Differing Beliefs

Each of my friends, equally well intentioned, both wanting to see me succeed, was presented with identical information: my writing. They both:

  • Read the same article.
  • Processed the same information through their internal filtration systems, past experiences, personal values, and personalities.
  • Reached a conclusion they believed to be true.
  • Made a decision to share their conclusion with me.
  • Called and offered advice that they sincerely believed would be essential to my success.

So one of two things happened here. Either my two dear friends got together and conspired to mess with my head (easily done) or two people to placed two completely opposing meanings on the same information made available to them.

Not on the Same Page

Clearly, I believe it was the second. And I draw another conclusion that I encourage you to consider.

I believe both of their perspectives could be true. That’s why I love having both of these dear friends in my life.

As we continue to lead much smaller lives than we might prefer during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a risk of limiting the people in our lives to those very closest to us. That is understandable. We can barely see our families, let alone strangers.

It is a human tendency to surround ourselves with people who think like we do, support our ideas, who offer nothing but positive feedback.

Taking Difficult Feedback

Of course I am more likely to take the feedback of my second friend who wants more of my sarcasm.

However, I also know I would do well to consider the advice of my first friend, and review my jokes carefully in writing, to make sure I’m not inadvertently saying something that could cause hurt or distaste.

If we let the necessary bubble of COVID become a bubble that lacks diversity and thought, we are robbing ourselves of important feedback. We are limiting ourselves as leaders. We’re avoiding challenges that could make us better people.

Science Backs This Up

There is scientific research to back this up. This HBR article is well worth reading because it describes in detail just how much better groups are at solving problems when they are made up of cognitively diverse people. Cognitively Diverse is just a way of saying people who are from all walks of life and have different experiences.

So to be perfectly honest, you probably aren’t going to see a massive reduction of sarcastic comments here. However, that doesn’t mean my first friend’s advice had no impact on me. I deeply appreciate the ability to receive, filter and sure perhaps even ignore, as many diverse perspectives as possible.

Till we read again.