I wrote this column a few years back on another site–but it seems especially relevant today. Let’s seek out what we hold in common:
The act of finding common ground, I’ve decided, is a bit like trying to create a venn diagram. I’m one circle. You’re another circle, and the challenge is to find out where we overlap.
I’ve spend the last week traveling back and forth across Arkansas, meeting with instructional coaches all over the state. I’ve driven, I figure over 700 miles, seen a lot of the state, and met many wonderful people. Travel like this, it turns out, is a great opportunity to try out finding common ground. I want to share two experiences I’ve had this week as I’ve tried to create venn diagrams for myself and others.
Experience #1. I stayed over night in a wonderful bed and breakfast the Edwardian Inn in Helena. Over breakfast, before I headed to the workshop site, kind of sleepy and lost in my coffee, eggs, and internet, I suddenly remembered our common ground challenge. I decided to search for some common ground with the host of the inn, and I asked him about the BB King poster he had posted in a corner of the hotel. That simple question led to a lively conversation about the musical history of Helena. It turns out that the town has an incredible history. The famous King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show had its start in Helena. The awesome Levon Helm, from the The Band, grew up in Helena. And the “crossroads”made famous by Robert Johnson were only about 30 miles from Helena in Clarksdale, Mississippi. These are just some of the things I heard. There were other stories about Conway Twitty and Bessie Smith, and the Helena Blues Festival. I loved the conversation, and I now have a much deeper appreciation of Helena, and I feel I got to know a really nice fellow. If you go to the Edwardian Inn, be sure to say hi for me.
Experience # 2. Driving from Little Rock to Fort Smith, I stopped at a gas station off the road. The two people running the station seemed to be just putting in time. I noticed, however, that they had accents that sounded a bit like they were from India, and it turned out I was right. I shared that I had just been there, and we had a great, lively conversation about the food, the scent, the traffic, and the sense of harmony I felt was central to the Indian way of life. In a flash, it felt like we were friends. I felt a real connection with them, and we all had fun. Finding common ground was joyous; it brought me closer to two nice people, and when we found that common ground we were all happier and more energized.
I really believe this is our natural state–happy, connected, and enjoying each other’s company. Our communication challenge is all about getting us back to that state, finding our common ground.