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Eight Keys to Bridging Our Differences



Eight Keys to Bridging Our Differences

There are many misconceptions about bridging differences, so we consulted with researchers and practitioners to clarify what it is—and what it isn’t.


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The meaning of bridging differences

The meaning of bridging differences

Bridging differences means finding ways to create positive dialogue and understanding across race, religion, political ideology, etc.


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The recognition of common humanity

Bridge-building does not mean that you always agree with the other person or find common ground with them.

  • Bridging starts by recognizing that the other person or group has their own needs, tastes, values, goals, and worldview. Bridging happens because someone feels they have been heard and understood.
  • The key to bridging is that you don't dehumanize a member of another group. You don't see them as less worthy of health and happiness when you disagree with them.



Bridging differences is not about persuasion

Bridging differences is not to convert people to your ideological position.

Bridging is trying to understand someone else's perspective. It requires asking them questions and seeing the world through their eyes.



Bridging differences is not synonymous with compromise

Bridging doesn’t mean abandoning your beliefs or values.

Bridging involves the cooperation of people, even when people have opposing views.



Bridging differences involves the right mindset

When we think about bridging differences, we usually think about big gestures or breakthrough conversations. However, much of the work happens beforehand.

To ensure inner work, we often need to cultivate the right mindsets and develop better intrapersonal skills that can build the capacity for more positive interactions with other people and groups.



Bridging differences requires modesty and humility

To bridge differences, you need to accept that you don't have all the answers nor that your view is the absolute right one.

Humble people show greater openness to other people's views and experiences.



Bridging differences and making small shifts

Bridging might involve trying to overcome a history of conflicts or creating an alliance between once-opposing groups to work toward a common goal.

The psychological and emotional distance someone needs to travel determines the time it will take to build trust to cross the bridge. Dealing with the smaller concerns first is good practice toward the more complicated issues.



Bridging differences means taking risks

Bridging often requires taking risks and exposing vulnerability. When you really hear someone else's views, you may even risk being influenced by what you hear.

The willingness to be transformed is necessary to do authentic bridging work.



Not everyone should bridge

It's is questionable and counterproductive to ask people to bridge differences when they're being discriminated against or denied social power.

It could be harmful to forge a connection with someone who fundamentally denies your right to exist or threatens you with violence.





It involves being able to see the point of view of someone you usually consider to be part of an outgroup.

Research finds that being able to offer another point of view - especially if...

Bridging differences

Both perspective-taking and perspective-giving are powerful tools to help negotiate differences, particularly between groups of different power dynamics.

Empathy isn’t enough

Although similar, perspective-taking is not the same as empathy. Empathy falls short in trying to reduce polarization. In fact, empathy appeared to make things worse.

We tend to feel empathy more towards people like us, that we can relate to. If an outgroup attacks an ingroup, the empathic concern doesn't help.

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A Life Of Art

An artful life isn't about money and fame. It is about the difference an artist can make in the world.

Your art is worth creating even if it moves only one person.

Being an Artist 24/7

An artist lives and breathes art. The clothes, the home decoration, the hairstyle, even the words that artists speak are their own creation, deliberate and intentional.

A true artist is a living work of art.

Not Just One Kind

An authentic artist is diverse in his art forms, with a lot of interests.

There are several ways to express oneself and a true artist recognizes that.

Using Office politics to your advantage

Office politics are a reality, and avoiding them altogether risks not having a say in what happens. 

It also allows people with less experience, skill or knowledge than you to inf...

Analyze the Organization Chart

Map the political power and influence in your organization, rather than people's rank or job title.

Ask yourself questions like, "Who are the real influencers?," "Who has authority but tends not to exercise it?," "Who is respected?," "Who champions or mentors others?," and "Who is the brains behind the business?"

Understand the Informal Network

Examine people's interactions and relationships to understand the informal or social networks.

Watch closely (but discreetly and respectfully) to find out who gets along with who, and who finds it more difficult to interact with others. 

Notice whether connections are based on friendship, respect, romance, or something else.