Leap Year Lesson #23: Spend Time With Someone Unlike You

Posted: January 23, 2012 in Relationships
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I had the pleasure today of spending a little time with some people I have not personally known for long. It was thoroughly enjoyable. I look forward to more time together. Someone looking at our very different lives would not expect us to enjoy time together, but we do.

There is a controversy in some circles about whether the Internet and social media only encourage people to associate with others who are like-minded, thus enlarging the divide that separates many people. On the contrary, a recent enormous study of Facebook data concludes that “the bulk of information we consume and share comes from people with different perspectives.”

Most of us have the opportunity to interact with people daily who are quite different than us. We need not – and should not – spend all our time with those who are just like us. Of course we will want to spend a healthy amount of time with those we feel closest to, and it is likely we will feel closest to those most like us. But just as there is great educational value in traveling to other cultures and other parts of the world, so there is value in spending time with others who live or work in close proximity but whose lives, beliefs and behaviors are different than our own.

One possible consequence of devoting time to those with different perspectives is destruction of the stereotype you may have brought into the relationship. It’s hard to hate someone you spend time with. It’s nearly impossible to think poorly of someone you regularly pray for.

I look forward to taking this advice to the extreme a little later this spring by spending a week in China, mostly in rural areas interacting with people I never would have imagined I would meet. I know I’ll learn a lot from them.

In times when there is so much division between groups – political, social, religious and otherwise – it may help if we step outside our comfort zone and spend time with someone very different. You may be surprised at what you learn.

Leap year lesson #23 is Spend time with someone different than you.

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