Friday, September 16, 2011

Finding Common Ground

A dear friend of mine, Bob Nelson, is a motivational speaker and author, and in his presentations of his recent book, Ubuntu (, he opens with an ice-breaker game that forces participants to find one thing in common with every person they meet during the session. That simple, yet brilliant, getting-to-know-you game got me thinking....

Shouldn't we all try to find at least one thing in common with EVERY person we meet, EVERY day? Wouldn't life improve on earth if all people practiced looking for commonalities with strangers, rather than avoiding getting know others based on assumptions about NOT having anything in common with them?

Many social enrichment programs today claim to foster togetherness and unity, when, in fact, they foster the opposite by stressing the very concepts that divide people from each other. Ironically using slogans like "teach tolerance," "celebrate differences," and "embrace diversity," such programs focus on how we treat strangers, rather than on how we find friends among former strangers.

A shift in mindset, focusing on commonalities, would be best represented by new slogans, such as: "teach acceptance," "celebrate commonalities," and "embrace unity." Focusing on that which unites us is the only way to eradicate xenophobia and break barriers. The current approach in many social programs does nothing to break down the walls between cultures and countries, neighborhoods and nations; rather, we find ourselves merely painting those walls, to disguise their function by painting them with brightly colored slogans, as though they were art.

"Find one thing you have in common with a stranger." Powerful, memorable, life-changing words.