• Barb Mayfield

United we stand


A group of people standing together on a beach holding hands upraised in the air.

Is it possible for the United States of America to be united again? What will unite us?


One year ago I proposed the idea that better communication can unite us. This idea resonated with hundreds of readers, making the following post (updated to this year’s birthday) read more than any other post. Do you agree that we need to communicate better?


This weekend we celebrate our nation’s 245th birthday as the United States of America. During those 245 years we have experienced periods of great unity and also periods of profound division. It appears what currently unites us is agreement that we are presently undeniably divided.


One way we can become united again is for us to become better at communicating. In fact, communication is essential for unity. Communication is a relational activity that involves receiving and listening to the ideas of others as well as expressing our own. Without two-way communication, we cannot achieve unity.


The word communication is derived from the Latin word “communis” which means common. We can more effectively communicate when we learn what we share in common, which is a great starting point for creating connections, building rapport, and over time achieving unity. Communication that builds unity begins with curiosity to truly learn about others, listening to one another, and hearing each other’s stories and dreams.


Listening with empathy leads to understanding and greater understanding builds trust and respect. Trust and respect are essential for creating unity. When we are united we can rely on one another to accomplish what we cannot do alone.


Unity does not equal sameness. It does not require a lack of diversity; in fact, unity is strengthened and empowered by diversity. If we only communicate with those who share our ideologies and backgrounds we may remain comfortable but will become increasingly divided. Those who are different from us are likely those who can teach us the most. Be a willing learner.


We can honor differing viewpoints and build unity around shared goals and values. There are many shared values that unite us – freedom, independence, equality, education, achievement, family, and of course, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What would you add to this list?


The concept that unity is an important trait for a team, organization, or nation has been spoken and written about for millennia. One of the oldest quotes about unity is attributed to Aesop, from the 6th century BCE: “United we stand, divided we fall.” Other quotes about unity include:


“Unity is strength, division is weakness.” Swahili Proverb


“You can’t have unity without diversity.” Richard Twiss, Native American educator


“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.” Herman Melville, American novelist


“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller


“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.” Albus Dumbledore in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” by J.K. Rowling


As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, let’s seek to communicate better. Listen. Demonstrate empathy. Look for common ground on which to enter into a dialogue that can lead to understanding, trust, and unity. Words can unite or divide, choose carefully. Listen first.


“It is not in numbers but in unity, that our great strength lies.” ~ Thomas Paine

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