The unknown is what we fear the most as humans, but the only way to overcome it is to learn about it, and lean into it. Whilst fear comes from a place of preservation, it can also be our greatest enemy. And fearing the unknown, can be one of the greatest enemies of all time, because it stops us, limits us, restricts us. Think about Christopher Columbus: imagine if the fear people had of him sailing off the edge of the world drew his explorations to a halt? History would have been written very differently. My point is, that the unknown, or simply the ‘other’, should be embraced not feared. The more you open yourself up to learning and embracing what you don’t know, the richer your life experience will be. Resist and regress. An analogy that comes to mind is about surviving a fall into a river with a strong current. One’s natural instinct is to fight the current, in an attempt to make it back to safe ground. But in actual fact, you’re supposed to do the opposite: face downstream, swim on a diagonal and work with the flow of the water. The more you struggle, the harder the struggle, if that makes sense. I love this as a metaphor for finding common ground. When we stop wasting time and energy pushing for our own agenda, and instead find ways to use our different strengths to work together, so much more can be accomplished. In life, I find that the root of so much conflict can be attributed to two things: conquest for power and fear. Whilst the fear often stems from the unknown – of different people, places, cultures that we’re perhaps not familiar with yet – it tends to breed hatred or, at the very least, indifference. But if we could learn not to be afraid of the unknown, to work with it, to go with the flow, just think how powerful we would be. Powerful and enriched.
Something that has brought me great success in my career is the ability to find common ground with people from all different backgrounds and walks of life, working with people from myriad countries, ethnicities, political backgrounds and religions. This has allowed me to find success, because when we are able to join forces with someone who is different from us, we open ourselves up to an entirely new world of resources and ways of thinking. When people bond together over an ocean of difference, there is a bridge that is built. And it’s from the bridging of these worlds, that a more powerful, and successful, environment can be cultivated. Lean on each other, learn from each other, and flourish.
To look at it another way, whilst embracing our differences we should also celebrate our similarities. We all have hopes, dreams and fears, no matter where we’re from, and they will always bind us. We are all human, at the end of the day, and that should be the common thread. In the UAE, this is the Year of Tolerance, a continuation of values instilled from the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, in which we embrace our differences in order to coexist in a more accepting and inclusive, and therefore powerful, nation. With the UAE rising as a global capital for progressive change through acceptance and solidarity, understanding and celebrating our differences to focus on universal human values is, in my opinion, the ultimate power move.
So how do you find common ground with someone who seems different from you? First, embrace the unknown – let it challenge, inspire and drive you. Second, set aside all assumptions, because the things that make you different – be it religion, lifestyle, race, or gender – will unite you too, if you look for the commonalities between you as humans. And third, look at what you can bring to each other’s tables. Lean on each other, learn from each other, and flourish.
From the March 2019 issue of Harper's BAZAAR Arabia.