When you meet someone for the first time, it’s only natural to look for things that you have in common. After all, that’s how relationships (both business and professional) are formed. But have you ever given thought to seeking out your uncommon commonalities?
What are uncommon commonalities? Well, that depends….the answer lies primarily in the context. For example, if you were to travel 15 miles away from home and bump into a stranger who is also from the same hometown, it wouldn’t mean much. But if you’re 5,000 miles from home and in a different country, you’d experience a different feeling meeting that same person. That’s what we mean by uncommon commonalities.
Uncommon commonalties are those similarities that we share that go beyond the superfluous or obvious ones. Adam Grant, professor at the Wharton School of Business and author of the book Give and Take, explains that it’s the type of commonalty that we bond over that makes a difference. When we identify a connection built on something that is a bit unusual or somewhat rare, a bond forms that tends to be stronger than one built on more superficial similarities.
When you think about this, it makes perfect sense. If we discover that we both share the same favorite color, that’s not uncommon—many folks probably do too. But discovering that a colleague also shares a love for the same obscure author provides a type of special insight into that person’s thoughts and feelings. It becomes even more special because fewer people share this same preference. It’s like joining a select club that few people are asked to join.
How can you uncover these uncommon commonalities? The first step you’ve already achieved—because you are now aware of them and cognizant of why they might make a difference. The next step is to ask questions and learn more about your customers and the people you work with. Don’t settle for the first answer. Ask relevant follow-up questions. You could start by asking them what they like to do when they’re not at work, or where they grew up, or their favorite place to vacation. And then ask even more questions. What do they enjoy about that particular vacation spot? You might find it’s not the scenery as much as it is the fact that there is no cell phone coverage and they can really disconnect. That might be something that you can relate to.
Discovering those uncommon commonalities can be a great way to initiate or accelerate the relationship building process. It’s those business relationships that will make your work life more pleasurable and successful. As Colin Powell has said, “The bottom line in all of it is that, in life, it’s all about the people.”