United We Stand Divided We Fall. A Powerful Strategy For Unifying People (Or A Country)

Uniting Divided People

This is the problem we’re trying to solve. You’ve all heard the expression, united we stand, divided we fall. Every team, community, or country consists of people that have different views. If they’re unified, they’re more likely to succeed. If they’re divided they’re more likely to fail. But uniting people that have different views is extremely difficult. So, how do we do it?

This is what we’re going to cover:

  • Let’s get clear about why this matters and what’s at stake
  • I’ll explain what Unity really means – step by step
  • Then we’ll discuss possible solutions
  • Real-life example
  • Then we’ll talk about what you can do so that you make sure that you’re part of the solution and not part of the problem.

The concepts I’m going to discuss are universal concepts that apply to teams of any kind, communities, and countries.

Why It Matters
Before we dive into this, why does it matter? What are the consequences of not achieving unity? Every community has a finite amount of resources. A finite amount of money, people, skills, and intellectual capacity. If we’re not unified, then all of these resources will be used in a way that pulls the community in different directions and that means we can never achieve our full potential.

We all know that unity exists on a spectrum and it’s almost impossible to be 100% unified. But, the only way for a community to achieve 100% of its potential is to be (theoretically) 100% unified. If it’s 60% unified, it can only achieve 60% of its potential, and so on. Somewhere in the lower end of the spectrum, there will be, what I call, a “fracturing point” – the point at which a community starts to tear itself apart. And that’s the point we need to avoid and that’s why this matters. If the level of division reaches a certain point, the community will self destruct.

I mentioned the expression, ‘United We Stand Divided We Fall‘.  It’s a pretty simple and effective answer to the question – why does unity matter?

United We Stand Divided We Fall – Explained

Okay, let’s talk about what unity really means and how to achieve it.

The simplest way to explain it is to use a sports team analogy. Most teams are made up of players from different backgrounds and they have different points of view on a long list of issues.

This makes a team similar to society but the important difference is that the sports team has unifying goals. Their short-term goal is to win the next game and their long-term goal is to win a championship. The individual players know that winning without being a unified team is impossible so they set their differences aside in order to pursue a common unifying goal.
So, the two most important elements of unity are:

  • Common unifying goal AND
  • Recognizing that all members of the team need each other to achieve the goal
United We Stand Divided We Fall

It must be both. Unity cannot be achieved with just one or the other.

Sport is different from society because sport defines and intensifies and concentrates the goal. The goal is clear and obvious and not subject to interpretation. And game day reveals and exposes the team members that are not committed to the cause.

The Solution
So how can this be put into practice in a community or a country?

This is something that requires leadership. The job of the leader is to define the unifying goal and explain how important it is then explain what role everyone will play and how important each role is.

If people actually believe in the unifying goal they will feel compelled to play their role AND they will value all of the other team members, this case – fellow citizens because they know that the unifying goal can only be achieved if they all play their role and play it well.

It’s easy for us to say that we don’t need people that have a different view from us. Don’t become one of those people. We do need them and I’ve just explained why we need them. 

A practical example of a unifying goal
Some people will argue that the unifying goal of a country should be economic prosperity.

That’s not good enough. People that say this are almost always male and have a skin color that matches the dominant skin color in their country.

When people say that the main goal should be economic prosperity, what are they really saying? They’re saying that they want their day to day lives to be comfortable.

If you’re a black female that lives in a white, male-dominated country and you’re subjected to abuse or discrimination on an ongoing basis, then your day-to-day life is not comfortable – even if you have a well-paying job. So you don’t need to be a genius to see that economic prosperity in isolation is not a unifying goal.

The unifying goal for most countries and communities should be something along the lines of “economic prosperity, equality, and happiness“. Then the leaders need to break down and define what economic prosperity, equality, and happiness look like in their country and how they plan to achieve it. 

But this can only work on the strict condition that everyone actually believes the leader when they say these words so these words must be reinforced with action that’s consistent with the message.

The concept of “United We Stand Divided We Fall” only works if everybody actually believes it to be true.

Real-Life Example
At the time of this video, Joe Biden is replacing Donald Trump as the next President of the United States and there’s a lot of calls for unity.

Well, the first question that needs to be answered is – what is the common unifying goal for the American people and why do people on both sides of politics need each other? I lived in the US for 15 years and follow the US news closely and I cannot tell you the answer to that question.
In the meantime, when I look at the division in the US, there’s a couple of other things that occur to me (and this why we need to look at real-life examples and not just look at theory).

Conservatives in the United States have been strong supporters of Trump – the most divisive President ever. But, now conservatives want unity. There are two major hurdles that are standing in the way of unity and they both relate to Trump.

The first one is conceding the election.

If trump conceded, it go a long way to unifying the country. The absence of a concession is causing division because Trump supporters think that they won the election and they have this view because this is what Trump is telling them. In this case, a portion of the population doesn’t want to unify because think they have been treated unfairly.

Trump supporters claim to have evidence of voter fraud and anti Trumpers say there is no evidence of voter fraud. So what do you do in this situation? You take it to court. Trump filed more than 60 lawsuits about voter fraud and they were all dismissed. We know that a judge or jury can make stupid decisions. That happens all the time. But, in this case, we have judges ruling on more than 60 cases. What are the chances that all 60 got this wrong? The chances are zero. So the court system has provided proof indicating that Trump supporters have not been treated unfairly.

But Trump supporters still believe that the election was stolen. Why? It’s because Trump supporters don’t care about objective facts. They just believe whatever Trump tells them. This is a reminder that, when it comes to unifying people, the right message is not enough. It also has to come from the right messenger. So the key to unity is in Trump’s hands. He needs to say two specific things:

  • There’s no evidence of voter fraud – that was big enough to change the election result – in any state.
  • He concedes the election

That’s it. If he makes these two statements, he will take one massive step toward unifying the country. Trump has no interest in doing this and most conservatives are not calling for Trump to concede the election. So the US will continue to be divided.

The second thing that Trump could have done to unify the country was to attend the inauguration.

The peaceful transfer of power in the US is symbolized by an inauguration where the former president respectfully hands over power to the next President. Trump decided not to attend the inauguration and most conservatives were not calling for Trump to attend the inauguration.

In fact, most conservatives are not calling for Trump to do anything. They’re calling for Biden to unify the country. Biden has already made numerous statements in an attempt to unify the country but conservatives are completely failing to understand a basic fact about how humans behave. Trump supporters don’t care about anything that Biden says. They only care about what Trump says. But, as I said earlier, it’s not enough for Trump to use his mouth and say the words. His supporters have to actually believe it. So delivering a stale, scripted message with a teleprompter isn’t good enough.  

Unification, by definition, requires everyone to participate. Calling for the other side to unify the country without being prepared to participate in the unification you’re calling for is absurd.

What can you do?
Okay, let’s talk about what you can do to contribute to unity in your community or country. When it comes to day to day life, this comes down to a ‘one on one’ version of what we’ve just discussed.

For example, if you’re about to get into an argument with someone about the economy, the starting point should be to agree on the common unifying goal. In this example, it might be to create jobs.

Agreeing on the common goal can go a long way to facilitating a more respectful debate.  If both sides genuinely agree that the common unifying goal is to increase jobs then the conversation can transition from an argument to a brainstorming session where both sides are contributing their best ideas for how to achieve the common goal. 

Ideas listings

If you want to get more involved, I’ve created two Ideas Listings on ‘I imagine’. One is about how Trump and Biden can unify Americans. The other one is more general and relates to any country or community. It’s simply about ‘How can we unify divided people?’. You know the deal – contribute your own ideas or vote and comment on ideas from other people. The best ideas bubble to the top.

If you’re new to ‘I Imagine‘, it’s is a social network for people that want to maximize their impact.  You can sign petitions, support causes and nonprofits, develop ideas for solving problems that matter to you, and connect with like-minded people.

Although the origins of the expression “United We Stand Divided We Fall” dates many hundreds of years, it will always be applicable to any human endeavor that requires people to work together to achieve something that they cannot achieve alone.

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