Finding Common Ground

Do you believe that opposites attract? There are a lot of opinions on this very subject, from both “yes” and “no” answers.

One of the ways we build alliances and strong relationships with others is to build on what we have in common. Abraham Lincoln once said, “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.”

How do you do this? Well, first of all, by feeling like a sincere friend. As a rule, friendships are built on common experiences, common backgrounds, and common values. Now, when people have enough in common, an element of difference can add a dash of excitement to the relationship – the spice in life, if you will. But on the whole, we are attracted to and want to spend time with people who are like us. It’s a comfort zone thing.

This phenomenon is also known as an unconscious bias, and we all have them. We can’t help but have them as they are based on our past experiences and the emotions we attached to them. These are usually filed away in our brains without much further thought or reflection. However, it’s that further thought and reflection that allows us to better evaluate our beliefs and replace them when we see they are holding us back, and aren’t working for us.

Think about this for a moment. When we fall in love, we tend to see only the similarities and ignore the differences. However, couples about to divorce tend to do just the opposite. They focus on the differences and no longer see the similarities at all. One could say that this is a matter of perspective, dependent on the situation at hand.

So, if you want to smooth out the rough spots in your world and build solid relationships and strong alliances – whether with coworkers, family members or friends – pay attention to where your focus is in the relationship. If it’s on the differences between you, conflict and friction is inevitable. But if you stay focused on the similarities, the things you have in common, you’ll have much smoother sailing.