Hopefully, at this stage of the diversity/inclusion game, most realize the value of honoring and respecting the differences between human beings. What is sometimes not recognized, however, is the importance of simultaneously identifying and valuing what we have in common – in short of acknowledging and cultivating the Common Ground we share.
I am, of course, not saying that we no longer value and preserve our differences – a move like that would certainly undermine our progress and our workplaces. What I am saying is that we add cultivating Common Ground to our repertoire and strike a balance that will benefit us all.
Beginning with #7, let’s take a look at the seven benefit in noticing and cultivating what we have in common.
Reason #7: Common Ground makes for better relationships because we tend to like people whom we perceive to be more like ourselves. The journal T&D discovered in its research that we tend to pair the word “like” more readily with those whom we perceive to be, in some way, like ourselves.
Reason #6: Common Ground creates a sense of social comfort among individuals who are in some other ways different from each other. As with the other benefits listed here, we are not saying that the individuals need to be exactly alike, merely that they are aware of some shared value, point-of-view, goal, or interest.
Reason #5: Common Ground creates an increased commitment and job satisfaction among the members of the team. When team members are aware of sharing some value or interest, commitment to both the task and the team increases. Research conducted by psychologists Karen Jehn, Gregory Northcraft, and Margaret Neale found that shared goals and values within a group increased feelings of satisfaction with the work.
Reason #4: Common Ground causes us to show more fairness to those with whom we share that ground. For example, when we are aware of sharing some value or interest with someone who in other ways is different from ourselves, we tend to blame them less for errors and weaknesses.
Reason #3: Common Ground increases empathy among members of the team. Empathy – defined as caring about others and attempting to understand what they feel – has been found to increase when individuals have some sense of commonality.
Reason #2: Common Ground increases trust so individuals are more willing to share information needed for the team to succeed. Scholars at Stanford University have discovered that socially-connected teams outperform others on tasks that require the sharing of bits of information and ideas that the various individuals might hold.
Reason #1: Common Ground helps reduce bias. This is because, when we focus solely on how we differ, we tend to assign to that difference a characteristic that often forms the nucleus of our bias. When, on the other hand, we balance that focus on difference with an emphasis on commonality, that rubric becomes less useful and very often begins to fade.
© copyright 2014 Sondra Thiederman, Ph.D.
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