Just for some introspection, I recently drew a picture of all my friends.
Not their faces (I have zero illustration talent) but a series of circles (think a bullseye) and listed their names on one of the ever-increasing circles. Closest family and friends nearest the center, and professional associates and acquaintances further out. I included people I am mostly associated with through church, my hobbies, professional activities, social clubs, and boards—you get the point. I stopped at about 150 people.
Mainly I wanted to see how diverse my daily influences were. I knew the answer; I’m just a glutton for punishment, I guess.
Here’s what I calculated. Of my 150 closest friends and associates:
- 2% were people of color. Meaning basically everyone I spend my time with is white.
- 80% were over the age of 50.
- Nearly all of them have advanced degrees.
- A surprising number were physicians.
- None of them have physical disabilities (that I know of).
- Most own multiple homes and cars and have no need for a financial safety net.
- All of them are not only employed but thriving professionally and financially.
I could go on, but let’s just say my relationships are not representative of the real world. They’re mostly a mirror of myself. Disclosure though: I am not a physician, I don’t own multiple homes, and I do have a few bills haunting me…
So you might ask why I did this exercise. My interview with Mindy Henderson revealed my general ignorance in how to talk with and about a person, otherwise very much like me, but with physical disabilities. How do I offer help? How do I refer to their condition or abilities when necessary without offending or minimizing them? How do I ensure the words I use to describe others with similar challenges are respectful and affirming?
I’ve come to realize I don’t need more friends, but I do need more diverse friends. People who can challenge my thinking and entrenched points of view. Those who can better teach me what’s going on outside my deliberately created and very safe bubble, ensuring I’m not only relevant but empathic and relatable.
So I looked at my circle another time, and although nobody’s race or net worth changed, I did see something valuable:
One of them is gay. Open, out, and very fulfilled. One is a leading name in the legalized cannabis industry (this is a big deal for me given that I not only have never partaken, but I’m quite public about my opposition). Several are Jewish or Muslim, and many are not religious at all. Quite a few have very debilitating mental and emotional health issues, which I’ve become a part of given their involvement in my businesses. And there are other very stark differences from me and my current roles in life.
Maybe my circle isn’t as homogeneous as I thought. But it certainly needs broadening. I’ll work on that.
About the AuthorMore Content by Scott Miller