Sarah and Paul Krumsieg, co-owner-operators of Dr. Jazz Soda Fountain & Grill in Lebanon, Illinois, know all about taking time. In fact, it was 15 years ago at their Soda Fountain that they took the time to talk with my family and me during our first visit to their restaurant, despite being in the middle of dinner rush. Ever since, we’ve been fast friends.

More recently, at a holiday party, Sarah asked me about the multi-cultural, cross-race discussions Pastor Julius Sims and I co-facilitate. I explained we come together once a month to learn, laugh, hurt, and grow together. With people we perceive to be different, we unpack majority cultural characteristics that help and hinder relationships.

Sarah asked for an example. One of the characteristics of majority culture is our sense of urgency. We often feel pressured, even rushed to check off the next task. Inclined to defend her culture (as we all are), Sarah asked if that was a problem. It’s not a problem, I explained, just a tendency. It’s not necessarily good or bad, or even right or wrong. It just is.

We Can Choose

Once we’re aware of a cultural tendency, we can choose how we’re going to behave. Otherwise, we think that’s just how we are. With my task-based ways, I used to schedule meetings back-to-back on the hour. Then I began to do the work of reconciliation, helping business owners become more aware of how to develop a robust and yet compassionate corporate environment that is ultimately more productive because everyone feels like they belong.

It didn’t take long to discover that if I was going to work effectively with people, I needed to allow more time to be with them. This would be especially true with those from a relationship-based cultural background. People, in general though, need to know you and your heart before they can trust you and feel comfortable working together. Now, when I’m meeting someone for the first time, I only schedule one meeting for that morning and let things unfold.

What I Do

Just like Sarah and Paul did when we first visited their restaurant, I’ve learned to:

  1. Put aside my own desire to be task-based and open up the time to be relationship-based
  2. Slow down
  3. Watch how the conversation unfolds
  4. Appreciate diverse ideas
  5. Look for common ground

In her book, The Culture Map Erin Meyer says, “Once the relationship is built, loyalty and openness comes with it.” For me, it’s been awesome to experience this depth of relationship. I explained to Sarah that this was the tipping point with Pastor Sims. He and I are of different genders, races, and socio-economic backgrounds. When we took the time to enter into relationship-based conversations, we were able to discover and create a working friendship built on our common ground of faith, education, and reconciliation.

Sarah appeared intrigued and asked if she could take the time to participate in our Courageous Conversation in January. Thanks to Sarah for her willingness to learn and grow. -AN