The Power of Diverse Friendships
All healthy friendships require challenge for growth. When friends present ideas and thoughts that are different from each other, they can gain a fuller understanding of each other and the world as a whole. The same is even truer when you have more diverse friends.
Diversity literally means “having or being composed of different elements,” but, socially, the meaning goes far beyond this. Diversity in society encompasses several identities: race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and more. When you surround yourself with people who are quite different from you, it is likely that you will all bring different ideas to the table and challenge each other with those ideas, helping each other grew interpersonally and even outside of these relationships.
Enriching your life
“Having diverse relationships allows you to experience aspects of the world that are unique and unlike your own,” says TJ Barber, Counselor at Centerstone. Having these friendships does not mean you have to change who you are, but rather that you get to exchange who you are with others and reap the benefits of them showing you who they are. You will open up your mind to more ideas, which will help you make more meaningful connections in the future with far more people.
Having strong diverse friendships also improves how you interact with diverse people in the world outside of your relationships. “Encountering diverse people is inevitable,” says Kayla Spikes, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Manager for Centerstone. “Whether or not you have diverse friends, you will see other people in the world who don’t look or think like you.” Your diverse friendships can give you a better context for different people’s lives and help you remove biases you may have before even interacting with a person. The world is increasingly global, so we will continue to encounter more people who are not like us as time goes on.
For your mental health
“There is power in these formed alliances,” says Kayla Spikes. “Diverse friendships allow us to be validated by someone who has a different experience.” Having close relationships with diverse people can provide a deeper level of support to help with our mental health challenges.
According to TJ Barber, “There is a different connection when someone tells you, ‘I see you.’” This can reduce feelings of isolation, like the feeling that you are the only one going through something. You can develop a more positive self-image and strengthen your mental health overall with these supports.
Growing in diversity is a process and requires intentional exposure. You may make mistakes when building these new friendships, but they will help you grow if you let them.