How Different Are We, Really?
When it comes right down to it, people are more similar than they are different.
This applies to nearly everyone. Differences fall away when we examine the human emotions and experiences of excitement, hurt, playfulness, pain, and joy. The famed psychologist Carl Rogers once said, “What is most private is most common.”
Whenever we think we have a unique experience or belief, exploration will prove what is thought of as singular is actually shared among many people, even those we think are very different from us. As it turns out, other people also play imaginary guitars, talk to themselves in the mirror, shout at characters in a movie, and dance with nary a thing on.
A popular exercise used in DEI sessions, prisons, and schools makes this point in a profound way.
In the exercise, two people who are normally thought of as very different (based on status, age, race, or religion) are paired together. Think of an executive paired with an entry-level worker, a person of privilege matched with a person with less advantage, or a successful businessperson paired with a prison inmate.
The two parties start the exercise about 10 feet apart. They are then asked a series of questions about their life experiences, values, and struggles. When they share common answers, they take a step toward the other party. When they don’t, they take a step away.
Invariably, parties who don’t believe they share anything in common are surprised to find they have many commonalities. The exercise usually brings them to within a foot or two of each other and with a newfound sense of respect and understanding.
When it comes to human emotion and experience, we have more in common than we generally believe. In fact, we’re almost identical in the things that really matter.