I have an emotional attachment to the Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg and the National Park so when the fires started I was glued to the news. When they got worse I got worried. When the fires reached their peak, my heart broke for all those impacted. Especially those who lost their lives.
I was writing a post about the fires and the impact on the place I love to hike, climb, camp and explore (yes, sometimes have a pancake or two!) but it just seemed shallow as the news worsened. Instead I decided to share one of my favorite learning experiences in the National Park. A memory from a place that is sure to bounce back.
I know I’ll be in the area over Christmas to do what I can to help that happen. I also encourage you to give if you’re able to help the area and especially those who have lost everything. They need money most of all. You can click here to find out how.
The Smokies Always Give
Recently I took my family camping in the Smoky Mountains where we had an amazing time connecting with the great outdoors. Even with all the bear sightings, s’mores and blisters jockeying for my attention, my mind wandered back to the wild world of sustainability (I guess that’s the price you pay for loving what you do). I spent as much time observing the habits of the other campers as the nature that surrounded us.
It only took a few conversations to be amazed by the wonderful and surprising mix of people we would be living with for the next two days. Old and young, liberal and conservative, jovial and just plain mean. I interacted with these divergent campers while trying to classify them (as we communication types are known to do). It was a fun game to play in between hot dogs and hikes.
My greatest observation, however, wasn’t one of differences but one of similarity. Every camper I talked to, no matter age or political view, mentioned how important it was to care for the National Park. All these differences, that would normally separate each of my new friends when back down below in the real world, became insignificant. Everyone I encountered was out in the environment enjoying what the natural world has to offer—talking about the park, playing, grilling and reminiscing together.
A great reinforcing lesson in effective communication.
No matter how different your target audiences or narrow their individual views, you can always bring them to common ground if you know how. Views about the environment and sustainable products differ across the board, but the right message, delivered in the right way, can have complete opposites headed for the same destination.
And the Smokies keep giving.
Lesson learned: Never discount those that may be in opposition because you could be devaluing powerful connections. There is always a way to connect even the most opposite of human beings. In sustainability specifically, success only comes when we speak to everyone in a way that brings them to the same emotional place.