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3 minute read

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photo credit: Daniel Alvarez Sanchez Diaz

The Great Divide

In case you haven’t turned on the TV, opened up a social media tool or had a Thanksgiving meal lately, let me update you. People are divided. About what? Anything. Everything. Big things, little things. Funny things, not-so-funny things. It’s time to step back and breathe.

Whether we are CEO’s, small business entrepreneurs, employees, students, or stay-at-home parents,— if you bring us together to dialogue, one thing is for certain. There will be differing views and opinions. Some of which are plain rubbish, but that’s only because it’s not OUR opinion, right?

We are at the point of such paranoia that we won’t even answer a knock-knock joke with “Who’s there” out of fear of what may happen next.

The Case for Dialogue Coffee

I happened across a T.E.D. Talk by Özlem Sara Cekic, a Danish politician. She spoke to a small auditorium of engaged listeners about her “dialogue coffees.” The dialogue coffees are what they sound like: sitting down with persons over a cup of coffee, dialoguing. What makes these dialogues of particular interest, and the focus of Ms. Cekic’s T.E.D. Talk, was whom she chose for these interactions.

We all have the abilty to build the bridges that cross the trenches. ÖLEM CEKIC

We are usually good with having coffee or tea or burgers with friends or clients or family — even strangers on one condition: we must always agree on every talking point, otherwise, you are dead to me. No soup for you.

Ms. Cekic had attracted a rather large email inbox full of hateful detractors. Her first instinct and daily routine were to delete the emails. One day as she lamented the issue with a friend, she was challenged to do the unthinkable. Rather than delete the emails, she would reach out and invite herself to the detractor’s home so she could learn more about their thoughts. She brought food. We all love free food.

She learned a valuable lesson. When we take the time to dialogue (talk AND listen) with others, we can usually find the common good between us. We may also be introduced to the Supervillain in ourselves in the process.

Superheroes vs. Supervillains

I’m going to ask you a question. The same question Ms. Cekic asked her T.E.D. Talk audience. I invite you to think about it for the rest of the day and in the coming days, but you have to be honest with yourself. The question is this … who do you demonize? Who is your “arch villain”? The Lex Luthor to your Superman? The Donald Trump to your Bernie Sanders.

I want to challenge you to invite someone who you “demonize” — someone who you disagree with politically and/or culturally and don’t think you have anything in common with, to coffee. It may be a client. It may be a family member.

In life and in business it is impossible to have 100% commonality with the people with whom we engage. But rather than shun people because we can’t hit 100% agreement on vegan vs. bacon, milk vs. soy, Lebron James vs. Kevin Durant… you get the point. Let’s look for any percentage of commonality and then build our bridge together from our opposing sides of the trench. At some point, we will meet in the middle.

Then all of sudden 50% is a raving success rate, and we can exchange ideas freely and without paranoia. Heck, we might even learn something— about ourselves, in the process. That there is a bit of superhero and supervillain in all of us.

Knock, knock… “Who’s there?”…open a dialogue and find out.
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