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Same, same or different?

We all know that our focus determines our reality, but we don’t always pay attention to HOW we get to a certain point in our thinking. One thing I’ve noticed a lot in working with people in transition is the difference in people who look for sameness versus people who focus on what’s different.

This is especially important when it comes to expats and travellers, because let’s face it – many things are going to be different, regardless where you move!

Both of these ways of sorting information – sameness and difference – have resourceful and un-resourceful sides to them.

Let’s look at how this might play out

  • Someone who looks for similarities will often be positive and consensus driven in connecting the things a place, person or situation has in common with what they are used to or have experienced in some point in the past. This can drive great rapport and connection to create cool things together.
  • For expats this approach often helps to look for similarities to familiarise themself with a new place and begin to feel at home faster than you might otherwise do. 
  • The un-resourceful side of this can come out when people only look for similarities and fail to notice the fundamental differences that may or may not be present. As you can imagine, this could be disaster for a relationship or project, because it has not taken enough elements into account. I’ve also noticed that these people can get stuck in relationships, careers or other situations that don’t move them forward because they are so focussed on the familiar things that are similar to what they are used to. 

Now I hear you asking – “What about the other side?

  • Someone who naturally looks for differences can be a great compliment to the above thinking as they will naturally look for things that seem out of place, not the same or not quite right. You can imagine than you’d want someone like this to be part of any detailed work that values accuracy or being part of a team to scope out something complex. Their eye and mind will focus on the things that are not the same as what they are used to or what was agreed.
  • This can also be really helpful for people in transition because they notice all the new and different things they really value and that inspired them to make the move in the first place
  • The un-resourceful side of this is that they can struggle to land in a new place or situation because it simply feels too different in every way. They can also sometimes come across as negative when all they are trying to do is risk management and/or point out information they feel is being left out.

What could this mean for you?

If you’re embarking upon change of some kind or a specific relocation, you need to find ways to tap into the resourceful side of what’s natural for you. Many expat couples and families I’ve worked with have both of these sides represented in their relationships, but in reality the thing that gets in the way of a happy balance is lack of communication. Specifically around expectations and what you both see as a good outcome.

Sameness can build amazing bridges and differences can excite us and help us grow. Make sure to leverage it in a way that will help you to an even better place. 

Finally, I want to leave you with a story that someone wise recently shared with me. You may have heard it before, but the message is important:

A man in a town sits in his local café. He is approached by a stranger that says “I’m thinking of moving to this town. Can you tell me what people are like here?” 

The local man says “Well, were you come from what were the people like there?

The stranger says “They were awful, dishonest and dreadful.  I just can’t stand it. They are selfish and greedy and I don’t like them at all. That’s why I want to move.

The man replies “Well, they are very much the same here.

Then the next day, a different stranger enters the café and asks the man “I’m thinking of moving to this town. Can you tell me what people are like here?” 

The local man again says “Well, were you come from what were the people like there?

The new stranger says “Oh, they are very kind and helpful and lovely to be with.” 

The local replies “Well, they are very much the same here.

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