One of the captivating characteristics of the human experience is that we are all unique, each and every one of us. And as we look to find common ground with those around us, keeping this in mind can really take the pressure off.
No longer do we have to keep hunting for our perfect match — relationally, politically, professionally, etc. — because there’s a better, more productive pursuit.
How about — How are we the same?
We’re better off letting go of the illusive mirage that someone, anyone is always going to agree with us. If it’s truly progress we’re after, finding a place to stand together — regardless of how much separates us — is an awfully good place to start.
Take for instance our friend - the consultant - who pitches a small business owner on a small budget proposal because he intends to be respectful and work inside of what he imagines are the owner’s financial means. Our consultant friend means so well. Which is why it makes it all the more surprising for him if the owner decides to go with the much more expensive pitch. Yet it happens all the time.
When our consultant friend thought he was thinking of the owner, he was actually thinking for the owner. He assumed that the owner would care the most about price, but it turns out the owner probably cared about other priorities more. That’s why he want with the pricier pitch.
Our friend forgot empathy.
Intent matters; and positive intent makes a powerful difference. There’s still more to the picture. Empathy would’ve helped our friend take the time to walk in the owner’s shoes, investigate the owner’s hopes and dreams for the business with curiosity, and then seek to see how he might serve his new client in the midst of that. It would’ve changed his whole direction.
Empathy helps us find a place to stand together. Once there, our consultant friend would see much better the pitch that matches his client’s hopes, fears, and dreams.
Begin with empathy. Then commit to the work of showing up each day to build a match.
Absolute truth exists — gravity for example. Even if we believe that gravity isn’t real with every fiber of our being, each time we jump gravity will be there to bring us back down to earth.
Absolute truth is convenient. It’s quite nice to not have to question when and where gravity is going to show up. We can rely on the confidence that gravity is always going to be there. We appreciate this convenience. We prefer it, I think. And that’s not bad; it merely is. The important piece is to be mindful of this preference.
This preference leads us into a bias toward too quickly categorizing patterns we notice as absolute truth. As a result there is a certain grouping of absolutes we hold onto in our lives that are actually only sometimes true, perhaps even most times true, yet not always. (It’s important to also note that these ‘patterns’ could also never be true. Mirages are real.)
These false absolute hide out all over our life. We hold onto them — cling to them even long after we rationally should — because they afford us a certain level of convenience and security that we would rather not give away. Sadly, these lead us to do all kinds of actions that, in the end, are against our best interest.
Create boundaries far too small.
Create boundaries far too large.
Initiate conflict over peaceful discourse.
Dishonoring of humanity — whether it’s dishonor toward ourselves, or others.
The biggest disservice though may be the devaluing of the true absolutes that, in the end, are of far greater value.
The industrial economy taught us that it’s possible to create a thriving society on the backs of business models that build their foundation entirely around the first kind of giving, mostly ignoring the second.
The connection economy we find ourselves in today is teaching us (if we pay close attention) that humans hope for something more from their relationships than mere win-win transactions (yes, even their business relationships).
If we’re looking to create real, meaningful connections, we’ll need to start by committing to the emotional labor, empathy, vulnerability, and care that reflects giving of the second kind.