Bridging Divides with Ashish Kothari and Diana McLain Smith

Why does it feel like our world is more divided than ever? Recent stats show that economic gaps, cultural clashes, and conflicting ideologies are pulling us further apart, making it challenging to agree on critical global issues. But what if there’s a solution right at our fingertips?

In this article, Ashish Kothari and Diana Smith, Founder and Author of Remaking the Space Between Us, share practical ways to break down these walls and bridge our divides. 

Ending the epidemic of loneliness

Why do so many of us feel lonely in a world that’s more connected than ever? Diana points out that over the past few decades, there’s been a remarkable increase in globalization, population migration, the rise of technology, the internet, and negativity in the news—all these external forces bombard us and flip us into a very unhappy cycle.

We get anxious because we don’t see how we can accept all these external events, so as a way to cope, we turn to our phones to distract us from the anxiety. But the more we do that, the more anxious we become, and sooner or later, we find ourselves in the deeply concerning cycle of loneliness again. 

This lonely cycle led Diana to write her book “Remaking the Space Between Us” because she believes that we all have an obligation to migrate in a new direction. We need to take action to disconnect. We must take responsibility to prevent constant negativity from affecting us. Ashish says that the actions we must take all start with us.

The first step you can take is to unplug. Getting involved in community activities is another great way to feel more anchored in the real world. The good news is that numerous groups are now actively working to improve situations and counteract the spread of negativity. But it’s our responsibility to actively seek out and join the movement towards positive change.

Remaking the space between us

Polarization, globalization, increasing hatred, the wrong side of technology, and growing inequities in our society are not just random problems but symptoms of a deeper issue: the barriers we create between ourselves and those who are different from us, whether those differences are based on beliefs, lifestyles, race, or socioeconomic status. 

Addressing these visible problems isn’t enough. We must look deeper and understand how our everyday actions and choices contribute to this divide. It’s not easy to break out of these spaces because we live in them. Diana says we can’t stop globalization or make technology disappear, but we can remake the space between us.

She highlights that since our founding, we as a people have always lived separate lives, in groups, divided along ideological and demographic lines. At different points in history, we’ve become more insular within these groups and more divided across them. 

Ashish believes that if enough of us take action collectively, we can change the system. None of this change would be possible unless we become aware of our lenses and learn to tune into others. 

To genuinely bridge our divides with others, we must first open our groups to different ideas. We must challenge ourselves to think beyond the usual perspectives and be willing to question our assumptions. This is one action we are in control of. 

We need to develop self-awareness and understand how we live and how that’s affecting us. We cannot cultivate self-awareness alone. It has to be done in relation to others who will help us see things we don’t see and vice versa. Self-awareness is a collaborative process and a universal act.

Empathy as a superpower

What’s the best way to bridge the divides between us? One can never go wrong with having empathy. Empathy can be a superpower in building deeper connections and enhancing relationships, and you can cultivate it with these three steps:

  1. Observe your stereotypes. Stereotypes are snap judgments we make about people before we really know them, and they can block our empathy.
  2. Get in the habit of inquiring into people’s experiences. Focus on understanding the meaningful things they are saying rather than getting distracted by less important details.
  3. Actively listen. When we listen, we need to ensure we’re not letting our beliefs and biases get in the way. By truly hearing what others are saying without judgment, we open ourselves up to genuine connections.

Empathy is super important, but it’s not always easy to show. We rarely talk about our feelings with each other because we don’t want to impose or come across as too emotional. But this all goes back to self-awareness; when we’re self-aware, the better we understand our own biases and emotions, the better we can empathize and build relationships with others.

Changing our approach to handling conflict

The great divide between us makes us refuse to acknowledge different beliefs and values, often leading to conflicts. But conflict isn’t always destructive. They can be opportunities to improve our connections and remake the space between us. Here are Diana’s tips on how we can change our approach to handling conflict:

  1. Reframe conflict – Instead of seeing conflict as destructive, why not look at it as an opportunity to improve and embrace positive change? This shift in mindset can open up new possibilities for creative solutions.
  1. Focus on the Problem, Not the Person – When things get heated, instead of blaming each other, we should concentrate on the problem itself. This way, we avoid turning a disagreement into a personal fight.
  1. Change the Win-Lose Mindset – Trying to win every argument isn’t helpful. Instead, we should listen to each other and learn from different points of view. This approach can help us find common ground and work together to solve problems.

Conclusion

The key to healing our divided world is straightforward: embrace our differences and work together for fairness. It starts with simple steps—rekindle with our communities, be open and understand different perspectives, and use empathy to handle our conflicts. Doing this allows us to turn our divisions into strengths and find new ways to unite. 


Why does it feel like our world is more divided than ever? In this article, Ashish Kothari and Diana Smith, Founder and Author of Remaking the Space Between Us, share ways to break down these walls and bridge our divides.

Learn more about Diana at her LinkedIn.

Listen to the podcast with Ashish and Diana below.

Access and subscribe to all of the episodes of the Happiness Squad Podcast here.

Visit the REWIRE Program powered up by the HAPPINESS SQUAD Community and experience your shift within your 30-day risk-free trial today. Cultivate your Self-Awareness, Gratitude, Purpose, Community, and personal growth more through the 9 Hardwired for Happiness practices. Integrate simple and proven micro-practices grounded in the science of happiness and neuroscience of habit formation in 5 minutes a day.

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With the focus on enhancing joy, health, love and meaning in your life, my transformational approach is interdisciplinary and integrates learnings from spiritual wisdom traditions, philosophy, positive psychology, neuroscience and organizational development.

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