How embracing similarities leads to a sense of belonging
I’ve been noticing something curious lately about the way my daughter describes people. She was telling her Dad about one of her friends and he asked what the friend looked like because he hadn’t met her before. My daughter answered that the friend was a girl ‘just like me’ and she had curly hair ‘just like me’.
To my adult brain, I was running through all the ways that I would describe this girl. She was easy to describe because she looked so different to most of Sophia’s other friends. And I realised that my way of describing people was the exact opposite of Sophia’s… I would list all the ways that the person was different to me, and she would name all of the ways that the person was the same as her.
And it got me thinking about what kind of effect this has on how we feel, so I did a little experiment. I thought of someone who I’m not particularly close to, and mentally ran through all of the ways that we’re different. And I noticed that every time I specified a difference, I felt like a little barrier came up between us, and the more differences I named, the more generally distant I felt from that person.
And then I tried Sophia’s way of naming all of the similarities… “This person is a female like me, or a parent like me, or they’re want to be loved just like me” etc and a fascinating thing happened.
This person who I was picturing, someone who I wasn’t particularly close to, started to feel nicer, more approachable, more friendly, more human. And I started to feel more relaxed, more calm, more open-hearted and more supported in general.
And I realised that this childhood tendency of seeking out the ways that we’re the same actually has a profound result. Focusing on the ways that we’re different has the subtle effect of making us feel isolated and less secure, but focusing on our similarities connects us with our sense of tribe and shared humanity, and makes us feel like we belong. And that’s what humans need… to belong.
So next time you notice yourself focusing on how ‘different’ someone else is, try this little experiment for yourself. Name all the ways that that person is actually just the same as you, and I bet you’ll walk away feeling less judgemental, more caring, happier, and like you belong more than ever before!