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The Potato Salad Solution

It’s hard to disagree respectfully and come to peaceful resolution when we don’t know each other. Without understanding of where someone else is coming from, it’s all too easy to “make stuff up” about them and set ourselves against them. In this video Craig tells us to make a deliberate effort to get to know others, outside our meetings, as people – and how potato salad can help!


This video has captions. To see them, click CC on the video screen.

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody. Hey it’s Craig Freshley here. A couple days ago I was at a reception with Senator Angus King. Angus King is the Independent United States Senator who represents Maine and he told the group gathered why the United States Senate is so dysfunctional these days.

It’s very simple, he says: it’s because the senators and their families don’t live in Washington. They used to live in Washington, and Senator King remembers those days. He was a staffer to a United States Senator forty years ago, and he remembers that their families lived there. Their kids went to school together, they got together on the weekends and had barbecues and traded recipes for potato salad. They disagreed on the floor of the Senate, but they knew each other’s wives and husbands and children and they understood where each other was coming from.

Today, typically, the first vote on the floor of the United States Senate occurs about 5 o’clock on Monday afternoon and the last vote occurs at 5 o’clock on Thursday afternoon, and for those long weekends the senators leave Washington to go home with their families.

When decision makers just fly in for the meeting, do the business, and then fly out — whether literally or figuratively — it’s hard to deal with each other as people. It’s hard to express compassion and respect for people whom you don’t know very well.

We’ve run into this in my neighborhood. I live in a cohousing community that we started before the invention of email, and when email came along it damn near ruined us, because we learned that we could do business with each other from within our houses and not face-to-face. And we found ourselves saying things to each other by email that we would never say face-to-face, and making assumptions about each other that we would never make face-to-face. We have since learned to not do business that way; to contain the ways in which we use email and do as much as possible face-to-face. We deliberately work on getting to know each other and where each other is coming from.

It is especially challenging these days when many groups don’t even meet to do business face-to-face; we do virtual meetings. It’s even harder to get to know each other.

I’m just naming this dynamic and reminding us that it is very hard to come to peaceful resolution to disagreements when we don’t know each other as people; when we don’t have that extra level of compassion and understanding and familiarity with where people are coming from.

In this day and age groups that want to make good decisions make extra special efforts to get to know each other outside of meetings, away from the floor of the Senate or the boardroom or the community meeting room.

Trade recipes for potato salad. Watch baseball games together. Tell stories from your past. It’s pretty remarkable how that contributes to good group decisions.

I hope this is helpful. Thanks for listening everybody!

One thought on “The Potato Salad Solution

  1. I agree with our suggestion, the virtual meetings have really created problems for many organizations. The informal contact when everyone comes together before and after meetings or separately on weekends make cooperation and agreement much easier. Walls are so easily erected to prevent cooperation.

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