Every single person we choose to associate with brings out a different side of us. Therefore, the more diverse our group of friends is, the more dynamic and flexible we become as an individual.
A lot of us repeat the cliche that “opposites attract,” but psychology research tells a different story. We’re much more likely to build relationships with people who are similar to us than people who are different from us.
This is called the similarity attraction effect. And while it may be a general tendency in most human behavior, it’s not necessarily a good thing.
In this article I’ll elaborate on this tendency for us to only interact with those who are similar to us, and how we can overcome this bias by expanding the range of people we associate with on a daily basis.
In one study done by Columbia University, they invited executives to participate in a cocktail mixer. Most people going into the meeting had goals of diversity, they would say they wanted to “meet as many different people as possible” and “expand their social network.”
However, by tracking their interactions through electronic name tags, researchers found the opposite. People didn’t seek interactions with people who were different then them, instead they tended to attract with people who were most like them: marketers spoke with other marketers, investors spoke with other investors, and accountants interacted with other accountants.
We have a tendency to be drawn to people based on the similarities we have with them, whether it be race, nationality, culture, religion, occupation, hobbies, or whatever.
It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing, but it’s sometimes important to go beyond our “comfort zone” of people and seek relationships with those who are wildly different from us.
If you only hang out with people who are like you, then they reinforce the person who you already are. But if you hang out with people who are also very different from you, then you are given an opportunity to grow in new ways.
Having a diverse group of friends gives you exposure to all different types of personalities, cultures, backgrounds, and beliefs. And at the end of the day exposing yourself to these new things can only make you more balanced and better educated as an individual.
So how do you start building a more diverse group of friends? The core of it is cultivating open-mindedness.
I don’t want you to analyze your group of friends and be like, “Oh, I need a black friend or a gay friend.” That’s of course not the right way to approach relationships.
However, if you are open-minded about everyone you meet, then you’re going to naturally find yourself meeting all different types of people.
Be interested in people in general. Everyone has their own stories and peculiarities. When you approach everyone with the intent to get to know them and understand them, you’ll often find that most people are pretty damn awesome in their own way.
Check out A Roadmap to Relationships for everything you need to know on how to navigate your social world.