To get closer, do this one thing

May 06, 2021
Photo by LinkedIn Sales Solutions, on Unsplash

Continuing this week’s Daily Tip theme about ways to connect with people who are different, let’s examine one thing that research tells us can reduce bias and connect us with others.

What is this one thing, this magical elixir that holds the promise to heal our country, repair our civic dialogue, and help us see ourselves in people who don’t look, act, or think like us?

In-groups and out-groups

As humans evolved, we developed tribes to protect ourselves. Fast forward to today, and we all have in-groups, people with whom we share a history or commonality, and with whom we are more comfortable. People who are not part of our in-groups, however they are defined, become an out-group.

According to Tiffany Jana and Matthew Freeman, authors of In Overcoming Bias, “Unfortunately, we tend to demand more from out-groups, in order to trust them or see them as competent.”

While we find it easier to hang out with people with whom we can quickly build trust, it is surprisingly simple to build trust with people we wouldn’t normally spend time with.

There is a growing body of research that tells us that the biggest factor in sustaining friendships isn’t race, political affiliations, or even common history.

It’s proximity.

In other words, simply your presence can bond you with others.

The proximity principle tells us, among other things, that people who encounter each other more frequently tend to develop stronger relationships.

In other words, to get closer, you just need to…get closer.

This is one of those things in life that has no impact if it remains solely an intellectual understanding. It’s one of those things you have to experience for yourself to see it working.

Confident Communicator Challenge

Bryan Stevenson says, “You cannot be an effective problem-solver from a distance,” so today, let’s challenge ourselves to find a person who is very different from us and strike up a conversation. Go beyond “how are you,” “nice weather today?” Not sure to start a conversation? Look for similarities or differences to discuss. Find out who they are and you will find out who you are.


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