Spend time with people who aren’t like you

I’ve taken a couple of days off from writing. It didn’t seem right to be posting on the morning of 9th November, as the world was coming to terms with the result of the US Presidential Election. My little post would have been totally out of place, so I pulled it.

I’ve been thinking a lot since then. The results of both Brexit and the US election came as a surprise to the world. However, with the benefit of hindsight, and a little understanding, we can see that both happened because a large percentage of society had become alienated and their vote was a consequence we should maybe have seen coming.

So why did we miss it?

I think the way we live our lives today has a lot to do with it. We spend time with people like us. We’ve got similar backgrounds, we’re of similar ages, live a similar lifestyle. Our Facebook and Twitter friends are just like us too, and the algorithms that sit behind platforms like these show us content that corresponds with our profiles. Which are often fabricated, ‘best versions’ of ourselves. Very few people share their whole selves online, however that’s a post for another day.

It means that we’re not seeing or hearing different perspectives. Learning about other people’s lives. People who aren’t like us. It’s a similar conversation that we have in the design world. Spend time with people who aren’t like you. Older people, younger people, people from different social backgrounds.

When this happens in the design process, people always learn a great deal. They also create ideas that they couldn’t have done without that diversity. And I think that if we can apply that same approach to life in general, we can maybe start to shape a different world than the one we currently inhabit.

So it’s time to start making a conscious effort to hang out with different people. Talk to them, listen – deeply listen, and empathise with their perspective. You don’t have to agree with it, but if we understand why people think and behave the way they do, then we’re in a better position to be able to do something about it.

5 thoughts on “Spend time with people who aren’t like you

  1. Good post! I think part of the problem might be in that we don’t ask enough questions that challenge our biases or beliefs. Is it the fear of discovering what we believe is wrong? It’s good to talk to many different people with our own blinkers off so we can learn and grow.

    I believe the Democrats lost the election as they failed to learn the lessons of Brexit and didn’t listen to the feelings of the population. Would Trump have won if he was up against Bernie Sanders?

    1. Thanks Steve! I just think that it’s not something we’ve been encouraged to do as we go through life. Schools and then university end up teaching the curiosity out of the majority. So we stop asking questions. I don’t know enough about the US political situation, but in many ways it could be good that Trump won. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a monster! But maybe him becoming President is the shock that the world needed for true change to take place?

      1. I think that’s true. I remember being nervous to ask a question at school in case it was considered stupid, or whatever, and now I realise if someone asks a question then it’s likely many other people in the room were thinking the same but were afraid to ask. Fortunately, the training company I’ve been doing some courses with in fitness actively encourage us to ask questions, where to go to find the answers and not to be afraid of being wrong. It’s quite enlightening to go through that experience!

  2. Sounds like a great idea Ali! Let me know how you’re fixed over he next week or two, it would be great to catch up

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