Two Kinds of People

ManGirlThere are two kinds of people – those in the group who are like me – or who I choose to be like – in some way, and all the rest, otherwise known as…”them.” The people who are like me depends on what characteristics are being measured.

An advertisement that appeals signifies that one identifies with a particular group of like-minded people. We often choose a product based on our sense of feeling like we are similar to other buyers of that item/brand, or because we want to feel more like our perception of the buyers of that brand.

A news story appeals because the message resonates among people who want to feel a part of the group who would like such a story. Maybe at face value: who doesn’t like a nice ‘feel-good’ story? Or maybe on a more conceptual level, such as a story that paints a particular politician in a light that’s congruous with an already held view.

Maybe a particular political agenda is initially favored, not because it’s beneficial (quite the contrary can be true), but because it is promoted by a party or individual one already supports for other reasons. Sides are chosen. It’s ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ And almost no matter what ‘we’ do, one chooses to support and believe in the action of his/her chosen team. We will learn the rhetoric and reasoning why our position makes sense and own that explanation, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

There are multiple facets to it. One may like a certain type of music and therefore begin to associate with others who are of like minds in that respect, but very different (on the ‘them’ team) in other respects. Someone could like the skill/sport of shooting a gun, but vehemently disagree with the political sensibilities of most others who do. An automobile enthusiast may become a fan of open wheel racing as opposed to stock car racing due to the perceived stereotypes of other members of that ‘tribe,’ not to mention the history/narrative of the endeavor itself.

The matrices can be quite complex, however, they usually start to erode. The gun shooter may become uncomfortable being associated with others of that kind and decide the crossbow is more sporting. Or, after hearing more of ‘their’ thinking behind their political views, may warm up to some of the ideas. (We will really listen and try to understand the perspective of a friend we disagree with, but generally will not turn on a news station whose views we believe are contrary to ours.)

We’re smart enough to see and understand that people are multi-faceted, but we still instinctively break them down into various ‘us’ and ‘them’ categories, and we still find that the more someone looks, feels, sounds, like ‘us’ the easier it is to like and respect them. We make more of an effort to try to understand them. Offer more help to them. And we subconsciously make lots of small choices to be perceived as a member of that tribe.

We ARE prejudiced. Not all the time. Not in every way. And often not when we’re thinking about it. But it’s wired pretty deeply. Recognizing this is the start to trying to find ways to rise above it. To reach across the perceived divide, even when it’s uncomfortable, recognizing and celebrating similarities that can connect us further in a spirit of true understanding. Watch that ‘other’ news channel for a while. When you begin to get over feelings of anger and frustration at the content you will find that there is something deeper to get. Listen – really listen – to a style of music you don’t respect. Try to understand why people like it. Try to get the joy or identity they seek in it. When you reach half way you will find some others will do their part to reach back. The world just got a little better.

14 Responses to “Two Kinds of People”

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