How We Can Grow Through Differences

by Corinna Freitag

During one of my last coaching sessions my coach said, that usually partnerships bloom that look at the beginning a bit difficult. And a partner- or a friendship with so many great similarities, that you understand each other without saying a word and that you feel like soulmates, very often fails after a while. The reason for this is that potential to grow is only possible if differences exist. If the other person is too similar, this potential cannot arise. If a partnership has also painful moments and conflicts to a certain degree we can break out of our patterns. If another person maybe even pampers us, our patterns are supported and we do not have any reasons to escape from them and to grow.

First her statement felt not very comfortable. And this is the point. If we want to evolve, we need to get out of our comfort zone.

Reflecting her statement several examples out of my life came to my mind. One is, that I am not very flexible. I like to make plans and to control. And I am happy, if everything works according to my plan. Around me are a lot of people who drive me crazy as they are very flexible. If I ask my husband in the morning if he likes to have lunch with me at 02:00 pm his answer is usually that he does not know when he will be hungry and he wants to decide spontaneously when to have lunch. When I work together with my Indian colleagues very often they are late for a meeting or cancel it on short notice. I have several friends who are very often late to our appointments or even do not show up. Regarding my (almost) nonexistent flexibility I have a lot of learning opportunities in my private and professional life. So far, I was not very happy when such a learning opportunity presented itself and I wanted that the others change their behavior. I started to change my attitude and to embrace all the situations, where I have to be more flexible. At the beginning it felt awkward. After a while, I was able to enjoy it a little. I recognized that being flexible gives me more freedom. I am still on the learning curve. But I get better and better and enjoy my newly gained flexibility more and more.

Interestingly, very shortly after the statement of my coach I had a training about diversity & inclusion recommended by my manager. At the beginning of the workshop I learned that if I can choose the person with whom I would like to work together, I will go for the one with the most similarities, even that I know that the best teams are diverse. This was a great eye-opener. At work I started to meet and exchange more with colleagues, who are different compared to me. For example, they have a different thinking-style, age, nationality or job level. With most colleagues I have inspiring conversations and great learnings.

If we embrace the opposite and look proactively for the exchange with people, who are different to us, we can grow enormously with each other. I have great experiences applying this to my life. It takes me more and more out of my comfort zone, which feels less and less uncomfortable.

Photo by Matheus Viana

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