We all seem to gravitate toward our comfort zones from time to time, and one of the easiest ways to stay there is to spend time with people who are just like us.
These people agree with us, think like us, and have a similar viewpoint on issues. But while this may seem to make our lives easier, there is also a downside.
Only spending time with people like us prevents us from growing, and even though we may be less comfortable hanging around people who are different from us, doing so also helps us to expand in crucial areas.
Here are five benefits of spending time with people who are different from us:
Being around those who think differently from us helps us to understand ourselves better. We become more conscious of the reasons that we chose to be who we are and think as we do, which keeps us from the trap of believing there is only one way to see things. This also helps to keep us away from the "us versus them" and "right versus wrong" thinking patterns.
People who are different challenge our way of thinking, our perceptions, and what we consider the norm. We can easily fall into the trap of only seeing things from our limited perspective. Being with others that see things differently will keep us aware that there are many different perspectives that all come with their own reasons for thinking this way. This awareness will challenge us to change our own perceptions when we find someone else’s point of view makes more sense to us.
All of us have strengths and challenges. Someone may be a big-picture thinker who has little interest and patience in the details. This person would greatly benefit from having someone in his or her close circle who is a detail person. The detail person would help them think of all the consequences of their actions, while the big-picture thinker could help the detail person not get bogged down by the details.
Having people around us who are able to see situations from many different angles helps us to get a more complete and clearer picture from which we can make more informed decisions.
Abraham Lincoln was well known for putting people in his cabinet who thought quite differently from him. While many would find this threatening, he realized he had blind spots in his own thinking and needed people who were strong in the areas that he was weak in. This helped him form a strong multi-faceted team that was seldom caught off guard because they had not thought of all aspects of an issue.
While being around those like us can keep us comfortable, this could also cause us to become boring, unimaginative, and dull. We need challenge in our lives to keep us sharp and stimulated, opening up a whole new and exciting world of possibilities for us to imagine and have fun with.
[Image: Flickr user János Balázs]