I meet many people each week from many different walks of life, and it’s part of my job to figure out a way to find common ground and connect. Most of the time, I fly through that process with ease, but this week I found myself in a particularly sticky situation.
This new client (who I will call Bill) is not someone you’d describe as “friendly” by any stretch of the imagination, and asking him questions about himself garnered awkward one-word answers that told me I should quit while I was ahead.
Ever determined, I sifted through my mental Rolodex of chatting topics and came up empty handed each and every time as we uncomfortably waited for the other attending parties to arrive at our meeting.
Now, I’ve never been the type to be hopeful for someone I know to show up to a social situation. I am typically very comfortable walking into a room by myself and begin making the acquaintance of others in the room.
The girl with the great dress is just waiting on someone to come and compliment her carefully-selected wardrobe for the evening, and some sincere appreciation makes an instant friend.
The group discussing their Memorial Day weekend plans is always an easy interjection as us Coloradoans can always find common ground on our love of the great outdoors.
However, this particular day, I couldn’t wait until my coworkers showed up to ease the social tension in the room. As someone who is keenly aware of social ques, it was like nails on a chalkboard waiting for this awkward moment to end.
Then, glancing over at a television, I saw some post-game highlights of the Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals series, and I made a reference to hoping to see my Denver Nuggets make it there one day.
At that moment, the planets aligned and my cranky companion shifted his mood immediately. To my surprise, a smile came over Bill’s face and he immediately opened up about how the Nuggets are his favorite basketball team of all time.
He impressed me with his historical knowledge of the team, and he named favorites like Dikembe Motombo, and Fat Lever among his Nuggets Hall of Fame list. Bill then went on to gush about our beloved, his Highness Nikola Jokic of Serbia, and we commiserated on another missed playoff appearance when sweet victory was within arm’s reach.
Bill was impressed to know that I engage in some casual sports blogging, and I was tremendously grateful for the ounce of credibility I had just earned in his eyes. By the time the others arrived at the meeting, I felt disrupted by their presence as I had just been able to bridge the seemingly impenetrable gap between us.
As I spoke about my company during the meeting, my comments were well received, and I could see that the things I was reviewing somehow carried more weight with my new friend than if we had never found our common ground.
Once we established the connection, we were able to sympathize with one another’s causes and see each other in a favorable light. My client even apologized for his short behavior before the meeting citing a very stressful morning.
However small of an experience this was, it was profound for me, and being a philosopher I contemplated the larger moral of the story. You see, there’s always something to connect with a fellow human about. Once we find common ground we can more easily understand their plight, and the reasons behind their beliefs.
No matter how big the gap may seem, finding common ground is the quickest way of turning an enemy into a friend.