This week, I want to share some thoughts on friendships with people from different ethnicities, cultures, and backgrounds.
During a conversation with one of my friends, the topic of social interactions came up. We talked about how we make new interactions and conversations with people who belong and who don't belong to our background. It seemed as if it's somewhat "easier" to connect with people from similar backgrounds, because we tend to share the same cultural ties and perspectives...
I'm not sure about whether it is easier or not, but I do know that the inertia of connecting with anyone — be it from a similar or a different background — can be overcome in a common way.
Simply, by being vulnerable and realizing that at the core, the things that make us human are all shared. We feel the same things, think and worry about the same things, dream and long for the same things. In the end, then, there's something so quintessential to being human that external notions of "culture" or "background" fail to determine the level of your friendship.
I learned this from a unique class at Berkeley, Facing You, Facing Me, an intimate, multiracial, curated weekly group setting wherein students meet and talk about each other's life experiences, perspectives, and ambitions. This class is not a traditional one, in which students have to enroll. Rather, it's based on a referral system, wherein students who are deeply impacted by the class's intimate experience refer other students who might also benefit from and contribute to the class.
It was in the first interaction itself that I was able to connect with all the people in the class, simply by answering a set of predefined questions to introduce myself. I shared how I was brought up, a typical family interaction, a funny or painful story (although mine was painfully funny — more on that another time)... There were 5 more questions but my answers to the first two prompted so many questions and follow-up responses that I never even got to the other 5.
I was surprised, simply because, for the first time, I had efficiently connected with individuals from Black, LatinX, Asian, and other communities, in an extremely short amount of time. And what was it that connected us? The quintessential traits of being human.
While my experiences and background were different from those of others, the end-goals of those experiences were the same. In the end, then, I realized that people essentially want the same things — the opportunity to serve, learn, grow and most importantly, love. Our experiences and backgrounds are only conduits for us to reach these end-goals.
The lessons I learned:
1) Understand that people are essentially the same.
2) Their backgrounds and perspectives are bound to be different.
3) Use your understanding that 'people are the same' to ask relevant questions about people's backgrounds.
You'll discover that you and others connect on something much deeper — the quintessential quality of being human.
Have a great week!