Men shaking hands Despite ourdifferences, brokers in rural Texas are dealing with issues thatwould sound familiar to those on the coasts. (Image:Shutterstock)

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It's easy to become discouraged and even hopeless these days. Itseems everywhere you look, there's division and discord.

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In fact, it's getting hard to find anything we Americans agreeon anymore. Well, I guess there's one exception: An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll last year foundthat 80 percent of Americans agree the country is "mainly" or"totally" divided. At least we can agree that we disagree on prettymuch everything.

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This trend is exacerbated in countless ways, from partisansocial media feeds to choices in television news. Increasingly, abig factor is also where we choose to live.

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Related: Employers apprehensive over dividedgovernment

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As Emily Badger writes in the New York Times, "urban-rural polarization hasbecome particularly acute in America: particularly entrenched,particularly hostile, particularly lopsided in itsconsequences."

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BenefitsPRO editor in chief Paul Wilson BenefitsPRO editor-in-chief Paul Wilson encourages readersto open up their minds to alternative viewpoints.

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And things aren't improving. "Disagreement among voters on arange of political issues has risen sharply in recent years," adivide that intensified during the first years of President Trump'sadministration, according to the Pew Research Center.

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Data suggests that this growing divergence even encompasses whowe surround ourselves with and where we choose to live.

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It's now common for Democrats and Republicans to have socialcircles filled with people who share their own beliefs, which,researchers say "diminishes the likelihood that people will havetheir partisan viewpoints challenged in any kind of meaningfulway," increasing pressure "to adopt partisan viewpoints rather thanrisk alienating friends and their broader social network."

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It's easy to make assumptions about those who are different fromyou. But you know what helps? Actually talking to them. I've foundbrokers in rural Texas are dealing with issues that would soundfamiliar to those on the coasts.

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BenefitsPRO September CoverBrowse the September digital edition of BenefitsPRO magazine.

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And this month's Face of Change interview with NYC-based ColleenBlum is a good reminder for those who make assumptions about thecity. Yes, Blum's clients include actresses and celebrities, butalso mom and pop shops and small business owners.

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There's growing unity among advisors across the country who areworking to fix our broken health care system. As Chris Yarn writes of declining quality of careand devastatingly high medical bills in, "You're the reason so manyAmericans want single-payer," "I do not think that is what anyRepublican or Democrat wants for their fellow man."

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It's easy to surround yourself with what's comfortable and safe.But don't give in. Read widely. Resist assumptions. Embraceempathy. Talk to people who look and live differently than you. Ipromise you, we're not as different as we seem.

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Paul Wilson

Paul Wilson is the editor-in-chief of BenefitsPRO Magazine and BenefitsPRO.com. He has covered the insurance industry for more than a decade, including stints at Retirement Advisor Magazine and ProducersWeb.