"What if" is such a powerful opening to a question. It evokes possibility thinking and encourages us to explore alternative ways of thinking and doing. Today, I ask, "What if we started with the similarities?" What if we looked for the commonalities between us rather then myopically focusing on the differences? What if we saw these similarities and built our understanding from there? How might that impact our interactions and relationships?
We each hold unique distinctions based on our cultural, family, generational, and geographical influences. These differences in perspective can tend to cause uncertainty, and elicit fear-based emotions that cause us to disengage our curiosity. Rather than seek to understand, we withdraw to the comfort of our knowing, our distinctions. What if we embraced what we did not know and chose to get curious about it? What if we started the dialogue by focusing on our similarities?
Engaging another person, particularly if you have just met them, from a place of commonality creates the space for engagement and curiosity. It fosters a mindset of sameness that allows you to build connection, and build your confidence in being vulnerable. Vulnerability humanizes us. It connects us at our most basic level of similarity.
Perhaps, you, a Caucasian man born in the United States, have just met someone new at a Leadership Conference for your Latino-focused nonprofit and he has a book in his hand. You could ask him about the book. Maybe he has the same thirst for learning that you do. After all, you both chose to attend this leadership education event. Or, while picking up a few last-minute things for tonight's dinner, you pass by an African-American woman at the grocery store carrying her young child. The child is smiling, looking into his mother's eyes and expressing his joy, through hearty laughter and a huge, warm smile. You might smile, make eye-contact, and ask the woman what her child's name is, or comment on how her son's precious laugh and smile brought you joy. You might choose to ask your work colleague, who just returned from visiting her family in Japan, "How was your sister's wedding? I'd love to see your photos from the event."
Looking for similarities first, opens doors to possibilities: to new relationships, to new ways of thinking, and to greater awareness. This expanded awareness presents choices we may not otherwise have seen. Ones that can result in a new friend, new learning, or a heart-warming smile. Expanded awareness can be the seed for greater inclusiveness, more prevalent acceptance without judgment (including self), and deeper appreciation of each person's unique gifts. What if we started by seeing the similarities? What possibilities would that present for you? What if you were me? What if I were you?
About the Author
Brian Kelly is a certified Strategic Strengths Coach committed to Building Tomorrow's Leaders Today™. To learn more about how to create greater awareness and understanding of your strengths so you can better apply them to improve your results and relationships, click here to connect with Brian on LinkedIn or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about leveraging strengths to shift relationships and understanding the needs of your strengths, click the link below. This is the first chapter of Strengths Strategy's upcoming book, Unlocking Strengths: the Key to Accelerating Performance, Energy, and Relationships: http://strengthsstrategy.com/download-book/.