Breaking Through the Imaginary Divide

By replacing ?them vs. us? with a ?we? mindset!

I?was sitting in a caf? recently, enjoying my morning chai latte, when I overheard two women talking. One of the women appeared agitated and spoke with frustration and annoyance. She said “?everyone in head office thinks they can tell us what to do”. The other woman nodded in agreement and added her own commentary about ?head office?. As the conversation progressed, they became fixated on the idea that ?outsiders? were telling them what to do.

This type of conversation is not uncommon. I am guilty of taking part in similar conversations in the past ? and it does nothing to improve the situation, it only magnifies the issue. ?So why do we engage in them?

I have noticed that it?s generally when things start to uncomfortable or when we feel threatened in any way. We go into ?protective mode? ? putting up an imaginary divide.

When I think of this, I?m reminded of the movie Pretty Woman. Vivian, played by Julia Roberts, walks into a clothing store and is greeted by a less-than-impressed shop assistant. The shop assistant forms an opinion of Vivian and puts up an imaginary divide, saying ?I don?t think we have anything for you, you?re obviously in the wrong place. Please leave?.

Later, in retaliation, Vivian (who is now dressed more conservatively), re-enters the same store where the shop assistant is now eager to serve her. Vivian says ?you work on commission right? I was in here yesterday – you wouldn?t wait on me? BIG mistake, big, huge! I have to go shopping now? leaving the shop assistant bewildered and embarrassed at what had just transpired.

In both instances, these women formed judgments about the other and created a ?them vs. us? mindset ? neither stopping to consider the other person?s perspective.

Detective Kim Bogucki, in her TEDx Talk, highlights a similar challenge with the divide between police and the general public. She talks about an initiative labelled ?The Donut Dialogue? where homeless youth meet with police officers to have difficult conversations in an attempt to break the ?them vs. us? mindset. She says the conversations are based around three questions:

  1. What is one belief or perception I have about you?
  2. What is one thing you don?t know about me?
  3. What would make our contact easier?

Kim adds, ?through honest dialogue and the breaking of bread they learnt a lot about each other? and reminds us that we?re all just human.

So the next time you find yourself putting up the imaginary divide of ?them vs. us? consider these three questions. Aim to leave all of your coffee conversations feeling empowered rather than frustrated ? your day will be much more enjoyable!

I?am a passionate leader with a keen focus on assisting others to identify their goals and move in a direction to ensure they?re achieved.

I am?a Directional Leadership Coach, Trainer, Facilitator, Mentor and Speaker who ignites vision and purpose in those I?work with.

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