Difference vs. Commonality

Do you look at what is different between you and other people? Or... do you look at what you have in common? It is a variation on the glass being half-empty or half-full. Focusing on what is different usually leads to separation and judgement, while focusing on what you have in common tends to lead to connection.

Differentiation is a natural developmental task we work on in childhood and adolescence. We out find who we are separate from our parents by differentiating ourselves from our parents. Carl Jung called this the process of individuation. It is how we find our individuality.

However, after we accomplish this developmental task, differentiating ourselves for others is less useful. It can be of value in discerning how you may process differently than someone else in a relationship. But otherwise, we do not typically need it for much.

But often differentiating ourselves for others becomes habitual. When this is so, we immediately zoom in on what is different. When we say to ourselves and the other(s) involved that we are different, there are not as many places to go from there. There is no common ground.

You and another human being might be extremely different. But if you share even just one thing in common, you have the basis to share and connect.

I once completed an exercise of finding something  in common with every employee at my work place at Intermountain Hospital in Boise. It was difficult to find commonality with some people. One person and myself could not have been more different. Watching professional football was the only thing we had in common.

So when I saw him in the hallway, we talked football. And we thoroughly enjoyed our connection. He later told me that he felt closer to me than anyone else at work.

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