Meeting people outside your cultural, lifestyle bubble is hard. For many of us life revolves around our family and our work. Meeting people outside of these spheres can be tough. It takes a very conscious effort to step outside your “bubble”. As I write, I ask you to keep in mind ALL of the people in your community that are different than you, not just those of a different race or color. I’m asking you to think about veterans, the homeless, people “covered with” tattoos & piercings, farmers, rape victims, LGBT crowd, religious, atheist, etc.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
First, it is important to recognize that meeting new people, especially those different from yourself, is an opportunity to grow as an individual. We all have our own cultural beliefs based on the religious beliefs, customs, sense of humor, and views toward family, work, health, & social issues passed down to us by our parents, grandparents, community, and the media. When we step outside of this bubble we are given the chance to strengthen, challenge or change these. Even when encountering people with values we may not agree with we are given the opportunity to see the world from another’s viewpoint. This opportunity allows for inner growth on a wider, humanist level as it fosters greater understanding and empathy for our fellow man. It may not change how we feel about an issue, but it gives us the chance to understand all of the finer details and who else this affects.
Without contact with people outside our comfort zone, it is easy to fall victim to stereotypical thoughts and misconceptions. Until real life experiences are had with others we can easily lose site of our innate human similarities.
HOW DO I MEET OTHERS?
That’s all great, but easier said than done, right? As I said earlier, you need to start by making a conscious effort to meet people outside of your bubble & take those first steps out of our comfort zone.
- You need to put yourself in situations to meet people unlike yourself. (Volunteer, attend community events, choose different parks where diversity is more prevelant)
- Know your biases and be willing to challenge them.
- Take opportunities to read & learn more about different cultures (look for cultural events in your local paper & at local colleges)
- Ask questions & don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Your genuine interest & warm attitude will make many amends.
- Listen. (Don’t be in a hurry to chime in! Give them room to talk and tell their story). Everyone has a story.
- Show you care- or better yet, say it!
Still too general? Feeling shy? Here are some other examples that might help get you started.
- Give a compliment- it’s a great way to break the ice. Think outside the box- i.e. See a mother disciplining her child and tell her how well she handled that. See a serviceman or veteran and tell him/her thank you for their service.
- Go beyond “Hello”. Instead of asking “how are you?” try “how is your day going today?”. Don’t let it end there. Tell a little about your day. Ask questions or give a more wordy reply. Start up a conversation!
- Attend community events such as: Summertime by George, Art Crawl, Walk with the Mayor, Music in the Park, MOMs groups, etc. Don’t just check out the local Farmers’ Markets but take time to engage with people.
- Read more about our Somali population (and others) in the ongoing articles featured in the St Cloud Times & attend events hosted by SCSU which will allow you to learn more and sometimes even try new cuisine.
- Give a homeless person a bottle of water. Take the opportunity to ask them how their day is going; see if they are willing to share their story.
- Take a community education class- there are often diverse cooking or language classes. Recently I’ve seen indian cuisine, learning basic somali, as well as, learning basic ASL. Have a special talent? TEACH a class.
- Volunteer- Their are opportunities across the board with a variety of time committment requirements. You can find a list HERE for opportunities in our area.
- Do something out of the blue- bring donuts to the Habitat for Humanity crew; A parent?- bring your kids to the park with a cooler full of freezies for all the kids.
Remember that the first step is making a committment to yourself. If you’re shy, bring a friend. Make sure to share all your wonderful experiences with your family, friends, and coworkers knowing you may be just the inspiration they need to take the leap!
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*This article is a guest post, written by a local member of our community.