Leadership: Connecting on Common Ground

Sep 21, 2022 | Human Connections, Our Thinking, Public Policy + Issues, Values

By Maury Giles

I recently had the privilege of moderating a Braver Angels Town Hall in Morgan, UT, with two candidates running for State Senate and a small group of voters. The experience was inspiring for what is possible when people with different perspectives genuinely try to “see” and connect with each other on difficult issues. 

Education. Healthcare. Two very simple issues with little debate on how to solve them both, right? Clearly, no. These are two hotly contested topics with starkly different partisan solutions. Yet, on this night there was more common ground than division. 

You see, the thing about the Braver Angels approach is the entire focus of the night is looking for shared beliefs and skipping the soundbite attacks on the “other party” perspective. We had staunchly entrenched Ds and Rs together discussing these issues in small groups, but they could only share back to the candidates the ideas on which they all agreed. 

Amazing. Refreshing. And, yes, inspiring. We didn’t solve anything that night. But genuine human connections were made. One at a time.  

Strengthening Human Connections 

At Heart+Mind, all our work centers around The Human. We see the world through a human-centric lens, and to do that, we explore every aspect of the human experience – from motivations to fears, from the heart to the mind. 

This year, we have been squarely focused on the importance of, and meaning behind, human connections to better understand decision making, behavioral shifts, and choice. We’re exploring the importance of trust, loyalty, and empathy in the human experience. We’re working to unpack authenticity and purpose, why they are needed, and how they impact our clients’ success. We’re researching how human connections are formed and how they are strengthened.  

We believe we must strengthen human connections in our society. We must choose to proactively do so now.  

Related: Human Connections in 2022

Societal Connections 

In our tracking research, we have seen mixed results for progress on human connections in the U.S. this year. Consider a few data nuggets: 

First, the good news. We’ve seen a lift in the percentage of Americans who feel connected this year. In personal relationships, this is up from 47% to 53% since the beginning of the year. In feeling connected to society, this has jumped 11 points in 2022 from 30% to 41%. 

But… the flip side of those numbers means most (59%) Americans do not feel connected to society AND a large chunk (47%) of Americans do not even feel connected in their personal relationships today. People who feel disconnected often make unhealthy choices while struggling to fit in or figure it out on their own. 

The bad news. Most of us (70%) believe the country is off on the wrong track. And in a reversal since the beginning of 2022, most Americans (56%) now are pessimistic about the decade ahead (we had 60% optimistic about the decade ahead at the beginning of the year). 

We need stronger connections.  


Challenging Issues 

Inflation is driving the cost-of-living off the charts. We expect the Federal Reserve to again take considerable action to fight it. Last month we even found in our data that one in five registered voters (19%) in the U.S. today have recently had to skip a meal simply because they could not afford food that day.  

International conflict with the Russian invasion of Ukraine has not gone away. In fact, just today Russian President Vladimir Putin called up 300,000 reservists to fight in Ukraine and announced plans to annex parts of the country. He even hinted at the potential to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia. 

Our issue tracker for the upcoming midterm election shows that the issues of inflation, healthcare, taxes, gun control, climate, and immigration dominate the agenda for voters.  

The pandemic has shifted our priorities for how we work, interact, consume content, shop, and engage. Yet, it has also introduced new barriers we are still struggling to process moving forward. 

And trust in our core institutions continues to wane. Government, media, education, and even the medical community are seen more and more as not trustworthy and not seeking our best interests. 

We have real issues to address. 

Related: The Importance of Global Connections

Rise to A Higher Call – Connect and Lead 

Challenge brings opportunity. Leadership means having, sharing, and acting on a vision. It means seeing people… everyone… and pushing ahead with ideas, solutions, and innovation to make things better. It means seeking the common good. 

I was also inspired recently watching the series First Ladies. It got me to study more into the lives of Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Ford, and Michelle Obama. Each in their own way, these women are trailblazers and leaders. 

Did you know it was Eleanor Roosevelt who first addressed the nation on the fateful day of December 7, 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor? Her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, spoke second. Not first. 

Consider these words from First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt in that moment when leadership and connection was needed: 

“I have a boy at sea on a destroyer, for all I know he may be on his way to the Pacific. Many of you all over the country have boys in the services who will now be called upon to go into action. You cannot escape anxiety. You cannot escape a clutch of fear at your heart and yet I hope that the certainty of what we have to meet will make you rise above these fears. 

“We must go about our daily business more determined than ever to do the ordinary things as well as we can and when we find a way to do anything more in our communities to help others, to build morale, to give a feeling of security, we must do it. Whatever is asked of us I am sure we can accomplish it. We are the free and unconquerable people of the United States of America. 

“To the young people of the nation, I must speak a word tonight. You are going to have a great opportunity. There will be high moments in which your strength and your ability will be tested. I have faith in you. I feel as though I was standing upon a rock and that rock is my faith in my fellow citizens.” 

We have a need for leadership. 

Invitation to Act 

We believe when companies, organizations, and governments understand the needs of the diverse audiences they serve, it sets them up to take action for the common good.  

We invite you to take inventory of the connections you need to strengthen. Explore the needs you are best positioned to address. Then act. Lead. Now. We are here to help in that quest — together.  

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