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We need to make more mayonnaise: How to heal fractured relationships

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

Today's society is increasing polarised with groups turning in on themselves and excluding others. In this post Chris Hudson and Andrew George argue that individuals and institutions have a role to make connections between different groups, helping create a society that is an emulsion rather than a mixture of oil and water.

ID 26903809 © Artistashmita |
ID 26903809 © Artistashmita |

The increasing political and social polarisation of society is of great concern. Individuals, organisations, even society as a whole, appear to be adopting more extreme and individual views. This continues to evolve as society increasingly finds its voice and identity through less interaction, less dialogue - ultimately resulting in less compromise. Society is adopting a structure in which individuals do not interact with people different from themselves, reinforcing their own echo chambers of perceptions and ideals.

Society has of course always been polarised. But in recent years the expansion of social media and “social” communication tools within organisations has meant that people can easily find others who have similar interests and values. They can communicate within these closed communities reinforcing their beliefs without challenge.

In a less connected world you end up having to ‘rub along’ with whoever you are thrown together with, in work, in your neighbourhood or in social networks. You had to get on with people who held different views.

In doing so people learned to listen to others’ perspectives and, even if they were not swayed by them, develop a tolerance of their viewpoint or at the very least understanding of their context.

We often see this in our own lives, in the organisations within which we work. When did we lose our curiosity, our empathy to understand others’ positions, where they are coming from and how they can be helped?

Creating an interest in others, a desire to learn and move from defensive positions to one of mutual learning will undoubtedly develop organisations and societies which are inherently more creative and resilient.

Creating an interest in others, a desire to learn and move from defensive positions to one of mutual learning will undoubtedly develop organisations and societies which are inherently more creative and resilient.

Today’s society can feel like an oil and water mixture, where the two liquids separate out and repel each other. However much you shake the bottle, oil sticks with oil and water with water.

How do we overcome this? It requires effort, positive “appreciative” interventions to add an agent into the mix that reduces the rejection. Egg yolk contains lecithin that can interact with both oil and water. Mixing oil with egg yolk makes emulsion, in which the oil and water droplets mix together in a stable manner. Further adding mustard and other flavouring - you have mayonnaise.

A world with emulsion is better. Stronger social cohesion, embracing and building on the uniqueness in diversity increases creativity, variety and ultimately societal strength. Understanding and working with the diversity inherent in a larger eco system will enhance any group or organisation.

So, what do we need to do in order to create this social mayonnaise? One must think about the forces that repel each other. A society that is formed when we define ourselves by what we are not, or what we oppose, is a society that will separate.

The second consideration are agents that bring the different molecules together, the lecithin. These agents can be people who make connections, who bridge different relationships in networks. These connectors are enormously important in society as they force the barriers to break down. All too often value is given to the functions the defined areas and not to the fluid in between, the unseen element that helps interactions run smoothly.

As well as skilled individuals, these emulsifiers can be institutions. Schools, universities, workplaces, religious institutions can collect a diversity of people under their roofs. They should be thinking more about how they then get those groups to mix while in the institution the process as well as the content.

This is difficult. Passively bringing together of people from different backgrounds does not stop them from not deeply connecting with each other. Indeed, it may produce a negative reaction that makes mixing more difficult. But creating opportunities for dialogue, for shared experiences, for mutual appreciation will all help reduce the repulsion that separates. It requires active interventions, effort in creating time and space for each other, to help others be known, feel safe and valued.

So, what should we as individuals do about this? We first need to think about the degree to which we personally operate in a separated society. We need to think about what we do that increases othering, start with ourselves. What beliefs do we have that make us behave in a way that separates us, how and why do we judge others? We need to develop a positive appreciative regard for others, whatever their differences. Finally, we need to reach others where they are, make the first move, be curious about their context, to genuinely want to understand them and how we can co-create a better context for both within the whole.




Chris Hudson MBA MSc FCIPSA

A CIPS Fellow with over 20 years of procurement experience both in the UK and Internationally across a variety of sectors including, Healthcare, Automotive & Defence Aerospace. Chris has a particular interest in organisational, group and individual change specifically context and integration of espoused theory in practice.


Andrew George

An executive coach and consultant, in his previous roles at universities Andrew has made contributions to medical research and education, as well as academic leadership. He also has also led on aspects of research ethics.

Web page:

Blog page:

Twitter: @ProfAGeorge

© 2019, Christ Hudson & Andrew George, all rights reserved

Posted 8 July 2019


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