Us and Them

In our work in helping people build more social capital, we know that similarity creates important bridges between people and is the first factor in initiating a relationship.  So finding ways that people are similar becomes a primary strategy in community building.

In fact, this notion of similarity, or things that make us feel connected has some unconscious roots.  I am reading a new book on unconscious behavior titled, "Before You Know It," by John Barge, one of the leading authorities on this topic.  In his book, he states: "It turns out that even the very word "us" is unconsciously positive, and the word "them" is unconsciously negative....In the automatic evaluation experiments conducted in Illinois the word "us" has the same automatic (immediate and unintended) positive effect on people as do words such as "cake, birthday, and Friday," while "them" has the same automatic negative effect as "poison, tornado, and Monday."

When you are one of "us" the stage is set for building a deeper relationship.  All the positive, pro-social aspects associated with being similar are displayed.  For those of us then, advocating for more social capital for people who are socially isolated, we need to move people from being one of "them" to become one of "us."