Human universals keep us connected

Imagine you have just been appointed a leadership role in a company. Would you walk into the job expecting that you will instantly be granted the respect and trust required to effectively lead your team? Hopefully not. Respect and trust take time to develop and a good leader knows they need to invest the time and effort to earn the right to lead. The best way to develop trust and respect is to work on building strong and meaningful connections, with each individual within your team. People are more likely to respect and follow those leaders that they feel they have a connection with.

The foundation of a solid working relationship is rapport

Building good rapport is the best way to establish connections quickly with people. Rapport is largely about minimising difference and increasing similarities. When we first meet someone we there is usually a period where we ask each other a series of questions with the aim of identifying what we have in common. When we do find something in common the conversation becomes easier and our perception of the other person changes for the better. Good leaders need to learn the skill of finding common ground between them and the individuals in their team in order to set the foundation of a trusting and respectful working relationship.

Human universals keep us connected

Interestingly, for many years anthropologists have looked into human behaviour and human culture through the filter of looking differences. If you were a student of anthropology before the year 2000, chances are you would have completed your doctorate by travelling to a far-away location to study a tribe who still lived the hunter gatherer lifestyle and then written your thesis on how they are different to other cultures … most likely your own.

We are much better these days at looking for similarities and having a greater sense of human connectedness, regardless of our cultural differences. Businesses and business leaders today often have to work with teams in other countries and from diverse cultural backgrounds, regardless there is always common ground to be found and the potential to build rapport. We are all human and it helps to remind ourselves of our shared human universals. “Human universals” are, essentially, qualities that, due to our shared evolutionary history, characterise humans across the globe.

In his book Human Universals,” Donald E. Brown lists the human attributes that are common across cultures, history and geography. Here lies a useful reminder of how we are all connected on a human level;

We all share the ability to communicate through language. Common attributes of language include: grammar, nouns, verbs and possessive pronouns. Languages are built around a concept and its opposite (good/bad, light/dark, tall/short etc.). All languages include a large non-verbal component, all cultures gossip and all cultures use language to both inform and misinform others. All cultures also have humour and insults.

Emotions and deductive reasoning:
We all share emotions like happiness, anger, envy and shame. We all share an ability to draw conclusions from events we have witnessed or discussed.

We all use numbers

We all classify and group things.

Understanding intention:
We all share the ability to read another person’s intention.

Sexual attraction:
Just as well or the species wouldn’t survive.

Tool making and shelter:
Common tools include tools that cut, pound, and contain objects and materials that are interwoven.

Mood altering substances:
Yes, we all have our drugs.

All cultures have rituals around pre-natal and post-natal care, for example.

Sense of community:
All societies can identify in-groups and out groups (based on things like location, sex, status and relationship) and all share an emotional connection to their place of birth.

While some cultures allow polygamy and other encourage monogamy, all cultures have a ritual to publicly recognise the right of a man and a woman to produce offspring.

We all share the need to share, the need to trade, and the desire to return favours and to shame those who do not return favours.

All societies have an awareness of relationships between different people and different groups and the need to successfully navigate these relationships.

Rules, laws and penalties:
All societies have rules around how individuals in the group need to act in order to be part of the group and penalties for those who do not comply. All societies also have rules that govern the specific areas of etiquette and hospitality.

The noble savage is a romantic myth. All humans become embroiled in conflicts.

Theories on fortune and misfortune:
The need to attribute fortune to external forces is common to all societies.

We all share rituals around birth, rites of passage to adulthood, marriage and death.

We also share the need to produce art. There is body art, poetry, music, dance and visual art etc. Another interesting note is that all culture’s music has rhythm, melody, repeating patterns and a specific form of music for children.

Building rapport with our colleagues and staff is essential to developing healthy work relationships build on established trust and respect. We need to embrace the many basic qualities that we all share in common just as much as we embrace the facets of diversity which highlight our differences.

Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.

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