Five Reasons Why the Commons Are Vital for All Communities

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"The commons" is a term that denotes everything we share as opposed to own privately. Some parts of the commons are gifts of nature: the air and oceans, the web of species, wilderness, and watersheds. Others are the product of human creativity and endeavor: sidewalks and public squares, the Internet, our languages, cultures, technologies, and infrastructure.

So what makes the commons so important? Peter Barnes has five good reasons: 

 1. The commons makes everything else work.  All private wealth is a co-pro­duction between an owner, society and nature.  In many cases, the bulk of the value comes from the latter two. The most “self-made” men and women draw upon a vast pool of knowledge and natural gifts (found in the commons) they did nothing to create.

2.  The commons is the source of much of our happiness.  We do not live on traded commodities alone.  We rely on nature, society and conviviality.  It has been proven that the happiest people are those most engaged in the lives of others. The commons facilitates such relationships better than anything or anyone else.   

3.  The commons can protect nature. 
The air belongs to all of us.  If it were treated as common wealth, there’d be trusts that receive polluters’ payments and distribute them to all of us as owners.  With commoners in charge of protecting their wealth, there’d be a lot less pollution than there is now.

4.  The commons can promote equality. 
Private profit-maximizing necessarily increases inequality.  A strong commons sector can offset this.  It can even provide income to everyone in the form of dividends from common wealth, as by charging for scarce resources and harms to nature.   

5. The commons represents our duty to our children. We, the living, inherited our shared wealth from nature and our ancestors.  We have no right to squander it.  Indeed, we have a moral responsibility to pass it on, undiminished if not enhanced, to future generations.


Four Ways to Better Work Together

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In Judith Katz and Fred Miller's latest book, the authors discuss the importance of individuals having good working relationships and interactions with their colleagues.

The authors have four deceptively simple ways to facilitate such interactions that will fundamentally change the way we work with each other:

1. Lean into Discomfort: Encourage yourself and others to move beyond comfort zones, speak up, do new things, and grow. Go to those places you would normally not go and extend beyond your comfort zone -- speak up and do new things.

2. Listen as an Ally: Don't judge others no matter how much you are tempted to. You are there as a supporter. As such, you will have to listen as an ally first to truly be able to help others.

3. State Your Intent and Intensity: Don't assume that people know your intent or how intensely feel about it. Let people know how committed you are to your ideas.

4. Share Your Street Corners: Get others' points of view and opinions of issues and challenges you are dealing with to realize new options and choices.


Five Reasons Why Small Talk Is Important

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Small talk is easily dismissed as "fluff" that gets in the way of getting to the point. Ironically enough, author and speech pathologist Carol Fleming argues quite the opposite: small talk is important and serves a vital role in communications.

Here are Carol's five reasons why small talk serves an important role in our relationships with others:

1. It is a way to establish trust.  The actual topic of the talk is really immaterial; it is the gesture of time spent facing each other, exchanging pleasantries, and establishing that friendship is wanted or is possible; and nothing else is possible without this trust-building period.

2. Small talk is the on-ramp to genuinely interesting and relevant conversations.  These substantive conversations cannot go from a cold start but they can start from a rather random or mundane observation. They need something like:

“Hello! Boy, that was one gorgeous day today! I played hooky and walked my Doodle down at Ocean Beach.”

“You’ve got a Doodle? I’ll be getting one in about a month. How are they as puppies?  Are you using a crate? How about house-breaking?”

“If you’re interested I meet with a puppy group on Saturday morning at 9am. You’d get a chance to see different ages. And we talk about these kinds of things.”

 “I hope it’s here in the city; I’d like to come.  My name’s Steve.”

What this person really needed to learn about is the new puppy breed he is looking to get, but the conversation started with the weather.

3. The road to your future will be paved with social conversation.  A person’s particular importance to you may not be apparent as you begin the exchange, but the relevance will emerge as you pay attention to the ‘free information’ being offered to you in the chat. No one will just walk up to you and say, "Hey, my company is hiring and you just seem like a good fit!"Or the love of your life is not going to come up to you and say, "You know, I just get the feeling we would it hit it off romantically!" Everything starts with small conversations.

4.  Simple conversations and small talk establish positive familiarity and can be very helpful at the right times. Just chatting or a simple introduction may seem perfunctory or unimportant, but it can open doors when you might be in an emergency situation and need something. Just saying hello to your office building guard on a regular basis can come in very handy when you are locked out of your office and need him or her to let you in. If you shared small talk, that guard will trust you enough and recognize you and let you into your office, which, depending on what's at stake, can make all the difference.

5. Small talk can convey caring and affection. Do you ever just ‘hang out’, or “shoot the breeze”, with someone face to face or on the phone? It may take you nowhere in the utilitarian sense, but will strongly communicate your caring to that other person. Sure, you can have an intense sit-down conversation but too much direct intensity is overwhelming. You can establish as much with a random chat like this:

"So what you are up to?....Frying chicken!  I thought you were going to give up on fried foods!...So what’s the new doctors name?...Got a specialty?  Is that right!  It’s amazing you found a gerontologist. I hear they’re really hard to find.  What she like?.... Well, that sounds O.K… I’ve got a new doctor, too but I haven’t actually met with him yet. He seems to have a good reputation.”

Sure, it's blah-blah-blah, but it also says "I care about you and your health. I want to know how you're doing."

Now go call your Grandmother!