Blog Posts

Shared experience

I made a new friend yesterday on a plane. We bonded over a shared experience when our business class airline seats failed to turn into beds on our flight back from Rwanda – a very first-world problem, I acknowledge. We were complete strangers in Kigali – 4,000 miles later in London we had found common ground, shared interests, and opportunities to partner. And all because we had a shared experience.

There’s nothing unusual about this experience, other than perhaps the 40,000 ft altitude. It is commonplace, and surely one of the glories of the human experience, that when common ground is found, fruitful relationships can follow.

And yet, how often, or indeed rarely, do we invest in finding common ground, embracing shared experiences, recognising the bonds of humanity?

Prima facie, my new friend and I had little in common, and little reason to interact. But the merest connection can give ground for broader exploration, and therein lie the rewards.

Shared experience is a powerful catalyst for human connection. It can bridge the gaps of culture, language, and identity, and create a sense of belonging and empathy among people who might otherwise never interact.

It can reduce prejudice and stereotypes. When we enjoy an ‘open’ encounter with those who are different from us in some way, we can be led to challenge the generalisations or assumptions that shape our opinions, and yet which so often do not reflect the realities or complexities of those we encounter.

Moreover, it can lead us to discover the similarities and differences that make each person unique and valuable. In so doing, we begin to appreciate the strengths and contributions of each person and overcome the barriers of fear or ignorance that may prevent the formation of meaningful relationships.

The recognition of those things which unite us – however ephemeral, like an airline seat – can engender the curiosity and willingness to look further and find deeper things around which we can align and build relationships.

Inevitably, such experiences lead to personal growth. We often most truly encounter ourselves in the other.

From that encounter follows self-knowledge, openness and (in time, if nurtured) wisdom.

And such growth doesn’t end with the self but, when harnessed, leads to professional growth and, potentially, unanticipated opportunities.

So, the acknowledgement of shared experiences can foster learning, innovation, and collaboration, as people exchange ideas, insights, and perspectives that enrich their understanding of themselves and the world. Curiosity is provoked, leading to who knows where …..

I rejoice in a new-found friendship. We will definitely be doing business together.

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