The Importance of Getting Beneath Our Common Ground

October 14, 2013 · by Allison Porter · Filed Under Blogposts on Leading Staff, Choices, Previous · Leave a Comment

articole_Tree-with-Roots-e1367263221857At two separate retreats this week I had the powerful experience – and the privilege – of being with groups as they got to know each other on a deeper level than they had before.  These were people who in some cases had worked together for years, rubbing shoulders in the trenches as they went about the challenging daily work of social change. Yet they didn’t really know one another and it was showing up in the way they worked together.

I am not surprised that they hadn’t had these conversations before. What we often talk about when we are not talking about work are those things that unite us – sports, celebrities, traffic and lately, our dysfunctional political system.  On the other hand, when you dig down deep to share something that makes you who you are, there’s a chance it might separate you from the group, so you are less likely to share it.

The interesting realization I had was how it was the very experience of revealing that difference – that uniqueness – that seemed to bring the groups closer.  As people saw each other with new eyes, they gained appreciation and context that they hadn’t had before. We also saw the essential vulnerability that unites us all in a larger common experience of being human.

I learned a lesson about trust – that it isn’t just about keeping our promises – it’s also about getting to know each other beneath our common ground to where we each come from – literally and figuratively.  And where we come from is stored right up close to our emotions – pride, passion, fear, anger, love, to name a few.  And expressing emotions feels risky.  Ultimately, to build trust, people need a safe space to be open with each other.  Organizations can provide that through periodic retreats and individuals can take initiative to make it happen by asking each other out for lunch or a drink. In most cases, it doesn’t just happen.  It is a result of an intention.

The reward is immeasurable.  It comes in the form of resilience, synergy, resourcefulness, and job satisfaction.  And frankly, it makes the world a more interesting place to live.  Thanks to everyone who spent some time with me this week for sharing a bit of yourself.



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