What We Miss by Thinking the Same Way as Everyone Else
For a long time, I didn’t really understand why diversity was important in any deep sense. Sure, I believe in equal opportunity as a basic tenet of fairness in America, and that was reason enough to want to see all different kinds of people in classrooms, neighborhoods, and boardrooms. What I did not get was how people who are not like everyone else can see things in profoundly different ways.
They ask different questions, offer fresh interpretations, and notice what’s missing or misleading in the conventional wisdom, in the popular media, and even in academic writings.
If you are someone who does not fit into the standard American box – because of your race or sexual orientation or religion or any other important characteristic – then you already know what I’m talking about. I didn’t learn these things until I started studying the science of relationships from the perspective of someone who is single at heart.
When I say that I am single at heart, I mean that single is who I really am. I’m not pining for a partner. I have been single my entire life and I plan to stay that way. I love my single life (except for all of the stereotyping and discrimination that I call singlism). Even if you are not as committed to single life as I am, but simply want to live your single years as fully and joyfully as possible, you are more likely to bring new ways of thinking to psychological research than people who care more about the coupled (romantic) relationship than any other.
Here are some examples.
Generating Plausible Explanations that No One Else Thought of
A scholar describing the findings of her research on siblings said this:
“Where one sibling is single, there tends to be more contact than between married people.”
Her explanation is this:
“The sibling relationship may be seen by adults as compensatory, in the sense that there is more contact between siblings when one of them does not have an intimate partner.”
Before you read the next sentence, can you generate your own interpretation of the findings that is different from the one you just read? The author is saying that singles pay more attention to siblings than married people do because they are “compensating” for not having a spouse. What do you think?
How about this:
- Single people are better at maintaining the relationships they care about. OR
- Single people prefer to have a diversified relationship portfolio, maintaining contact with different kinds of people such as siblings, friends, and neighbors, rather than focusing primarily on just one other person (the spouse or romantic partner).
Asking Questions that are Farther-Reaching
An important review article published in a prestigious psychology journal set out to answer this question:
What are the implications of multiple roles (e.g., worker, housekeeper, caregiver) for the well-being of husbands and wives and for their relationship?
That’s a question worth addressing. Can you take the same basic issue (the implications of multiple roles for well-being) and pose a question that is based on a bigger, broader point of view?
How about this:
- What are the implications of having had multiple roles (compared to just one role) for well-being after a marriage ends? OR
- What are the implications of multiple roles for all people (singles included) across the lifespan?
Recognizing When Intentions to be Inclusive Are Actually Exclusive
See if you can tell what is wrong with these two statements:
- In its recruiting materials, an organization makes this claim: Here at Company Primo, we care about work-family balance.
- Boastful claim by a politician: I care about working families.
Company Primo wants its prospective employees to know that it cares about more than just their work life. Such a company probably also construes “family” in the narrow sense of the nuclear family that adults “create.” More than 40% of all workers are single. Many of them do not have children. The “work-family balance” promise is unlikely to speak to their wishes to live full lives outside of the workplace, or to care for people who may be especially important to them, such as siblings or close friends.
The politician probably intends to convey the message that she or he does not just care about the elites. The working class is important, too. Then why not express a concern for all workers? “Working families” is an odd concept. Employers do not hire families, they hire individual workers. And anyway, 2-year olds are not all that great at driving trucks or designing websites.
There are so many more examples. Feel free to post your own, or ask for more. For other writings from a singles perspective, check out the feeds at Single with Attitude.
Young woman photo available at Shutterstock.
DePaulo, B. (2011). What We Miss by Thinking the Same Way as Everyone Else. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 3, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/single-at-heart/2011/11/what-we-miss-by-thinking-the-same-way-as-everyone-else/