Neuroscientist Uri Hasson researches the foundations of human communication. In a February 2016 Ted Talk–he explained the importance of common ground to effective communication. His research shows the ways in which our brains “couple” when understanding is achieved between a speaker and a listener.
In my work as a speaker and consultant with organizations and teams, I find that business people and those who work with the public are often frustrated in the communication of ideas across cultural and other diverse barriers. This frustration, in large part is due to a lack of common ground or shared soil into which seeds of information or story are sown. Without establishing a link or coupling between individuals or in groups, the steps needed for teamwork, for supervision, for entertainment, or for any human interaction are thwarted.
Jesus, for example, who spoke into a mainly agrarian context used stories based on farming, viticulture, shepherding, fishing, etc. He used not only the language of the people, Aramaic, but he also effectively utilized metaphors from their shared experience. Martin Luther King was another brilliant communicator who built bridges of understanding with his audiences using a narrative that resonated with them and constructed new ways of thinking and feeling.
We live in a wonderfully diverse culture in which we can interact with people from across the globe either through the Internet or the person sitting at the next desk. Human resource personnel struggle to not only hire people with the right credentials for a job but to employ people who can fit in with the team. If they do not, then extra work needs to be done to aid the new employee in learning the culture of the office or of the team. I may be called in to work with individuals or with the team to find ways to move beyond the barriers, to benefit the bottom line and the relationships.
The best shared common goal includes a vision of the final goal or creative project and will meet the needs of the individuals involved in the undertaking. The ability to communicate that goal and find buy-in from the clients, the employees, the volunteers, and the investors requires coupling and shared understanding. Barking out orders and expecting people to obey will not work in our concept-oriented culture.
Using the illustration of the community garden, we all benefit and flourish when seeds are planted in the shared soil of intertwined lives.