What happens when you don’t know someone’s identity?

Tension.

Think of a party with mostly strangers. Each person knows the host, but that’s about it. The people stand around and most start by talking to the host since they understand their identity, their interests, their career, etc. Eventually, the others hear the conversations and start forming ideas about the identities of the others at the party. People loosen up, and the topics of conversation start to flow as people form connections between their different identities.

This is the reason it’s so important to make sure people inside a company, or at a party, know a bit about each other. You create a few strands that connect people with different identities together, and eventually, organically, more connections start to be formed from the foundation that you laid.

Tension is the natural state of things when there is a void in identity. When you come face-to-face with a wild animal, a tension might occur. You both might stare each other down. Neither of you knows whether the other is peaceful, hungry, scared, territorial, and anything else you can name as an identity. Over time, if you don’t attack each other, and don’t seem threatening, you may both identify the other as non-threatening, from there, something else can bloom possibly into friendship.

Identity is one of the most powerful forces in the world. It can divide a nation. It can elevate a mere human to legendary status. It can create tension.

If you’re going to do something with a group, it might be worth thinking about how you’ll identify people to the others in the group. It’s also important to think about how you identify yourself as well.