This exercise through Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center is designed to help you expand your sense of shared identity with others.
Seeing commonalities, support us, and seeing our common humanity, instead of othering or dehumanizing people that are different from us, or that we find challenging. And you can do this practice sitting comfortably in your chair with your eyes closed, or your gaze cast downward. Or you can do this as a written practice and grab a pen or pencil and a pad of paper.
So first, think of a person in your life who seems very different from you in every way imaginable. They might have different interests, different religious or political beliefs, or different life experiences. They may even be someone with whom you’ve had a personal conflict with or be a part of a group that’s been in a conflict with a group you’re a part of. Next, make a list of all the things you most likely share in common with this person. Perhaps you both work at the same company or go to the same school.
Maybe maybe you both have children or a significant other. Probably you’ve both had your heart broken at some point in your lives or have lost a loved one. You’ve both experienced suffering in some way. And at the broadest level, you’re both belonged to the human species, which means that you share 99.9% of your DNA. Now, review this list of commonalities. How do they make you see this person in any light?
Instead of simply seeing this person as someone unfamiliar to you or as a member of an outgroup, try to see this person as an individual. One whose tastes and experiences might overlap with yours in certain ways. And you can repeat this exercise whenever you meet someone who initially seems different from you with whom you’ve had a a conflict or someone who just makes you feel uncomfortable.