It is almost Thanksgiving, and I am sure that you are inundated with posts about being thankful. I am going to add one more. When I woke up this morning, I saw all of the coverage following the violence in Ferguson, MO, and my heart breaks for the people who are impacted by the violence. Why is it that as a society, we see so much violence? Are we born with a genetic predisposition to violence, or are we lacking in education on how to respond to turmoil and conflict? Are we taught that the only way to effect change is to rally the troops and to build a wall? Are leaders only strong because they are loud and forceful? When I look at the leaders who have inspired me, and who have been very successful, one trait is evident. They are bridge builders.
What makes a bridge builder?
1. They listen. Rather than come up with reasons why something can’t work, or why a person shouldn’t feel the way they do, they listen to try to understand the situation, as well as perspectives related to the issue.
2. They are empathetic. Empathy can sometimes be viewed as a weakness. But why? Why should having feelings and working to understand the human condition be a weakness? It isn’t. In fact, it is a strength. Bridge Builders work to understand the people they work with. While they may not experience things in the same way, understanding that everyone experiences life differently, and valuing that experience is powerful. They are creating understanding and building a bridge to better dialogue, creativity, and problem solving.
3. They are appreciative of the efforts of the people around them. They recognize the struggle, and are thankful for the support. They are thankful for opportunities, and they are thankful of the work. Saying thank you is so powerful.
4. They are hopeful. They are hopeful that the work they do will inspire others to do the same. They can see possibilities in the world, and have hope that they can change situations for the better. They turn a negative experience into an opportunity for change and growth.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the bridge builders, in government, in business, in religious organizations, and in our communities. Let’s work to be more like them, and connect on a human level with our colleagues and neighbors.