Each of us belongs to a number of communities, based on location, culture, shared interests, shared values, or shared organizational structures. When we think of our town or neighbourhood, we usually are considering a geographic area that we identify with whether or not we feel close to all of the people there. In other words, we can identify with a location without necessarily having a deeper sense of community.

Usually, though, when we talk about community, we are talking about more than a physical co-location. We are referring to some sense of connection, of belonging. So, if we want a geographic location to also feel like a real community, what more do we need?

It is unrealistic to think that everyone who lives in one place would have exactly the same interests or even share all of the same values. Indeed, a community would be a pretty dull place if everyone were exactly the same. We grow through considering new ideas and perspectives. Canadian communities, in particular, generally value multiple cultural backgrounds and diversity of thought.

So how do we nurture diversity in a way that brings us together? The answer lies in having and demonstrating respect for each other. Being genuinely curious about another’s perspective. Adopting an attitude of active listening – really hearing what matters to the other person instead of focusing on our own rebuttal. Assuming that the other has a legitimate concern, even if it is different from our own.

How do we cultivate respect for each other? Some techniques including treating everyone we meet the way we would want them to treat us. Be courteous and polite to each other, and listen without interrupting to each other. Don’t judge others, or accept denigrating comments about others, before we get a chance to really know that person ourselves. Remember that we share some common cause with just about everyone, so look for those areas of commonality instead of assuming only difference.