Guest Post – Finding Common Ground

Today I’m delighted to introduce you to Tayo Rockson through a guest post — Finding Common Ground. Tayo has a passion to see third culture kids use their diverse backgrounds to make a difference across many spheres of society and in early fall will be hosting a podcast featuring different third culture kids. He also generously read through my book and gave an endorsement! You can read more about Tayo at the end of the post. 


Every 4 years, a variation of a sporting event brings groups of people together, whether it is the World Cup, Olympics, or the Winter Olympics.

These events inspire:

  • cooperation where there might not have been one before

  • hugs with strangers

  • smiles and head nods of acknowledgement from opposing groups and

  • an open door policy from anyone with the game on the TV

If it takes just a simple sporting event to cause people to set aside their differences then maybe more effort should be spent on finding common ground instead of emphasizing differences. 

I have lived in 5 countries across 4 continents and each time I move I realize I have a choice: I can either emphasize our differences, or find common ground. Here are some of the ways I’ve learned to find common ground in the place where I currently live – New York City.

Say Hi With A Smile: This does wonders for people especially ones having bad days. It also makes you appear welcoming and approachable.

Ask How Their Day Was: If you follow up that “hi” with a “how was your day?”, you might be on to some communication gold. The trick here though is not to say “how was your day” and walk away. Make sure you look him or her in the eye and have your shoulders squarely facing the person when asking the question. You will come across as someone who cares genuinely for them and easy to talk to.

Ask Where People Are From: Everyone has a story to tell and you can often hear that story by asking where they come from. Stories are important because they give you a glimpse of who people are. This a great way to understand someone and withhold judgement because you know why they think the way they do. Also, this is often reciprocated by them asking you same question. CONNECTION!

Be Complimentary: This has everything to do with being observant. Pay attention to the people around you and you will be able to notice different things that they do or wear. If you make it a mission of yours to just pay attention to people then you will notice the subtleties in their lives.

Learn Phrases, Sentences, And Mannerisms In Foreign Cultures: This is SO important for one to be accepted in foreign lands because it gives foreigners the impression that you are making an effort to communicate with them and not just be a tourist. You’ll often find locals more welcoming to you this way.

Turn Ignorance Into Education: When I first came to Virginia for college from Nigeria/Vietnam, my college mates asked me why I spoke such good English and if I lived in huts or walked among lions. Instead of getting angry, I simply told them that lions were not common in that part of Africa and that English is the official language in Nigeria. Education!

I’ll be the first to say that none of this is necessarily easy, but trust me — it’s worth it! 

tayoTayo Rockson grew up in four different continents so he considers himself a citizen of the world. He has lived in Sweden, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Vietnam and the United States and his goal is to ultimately leave the world a better place than it was before he came into it. Once he discovered that he was a Third Culture Kid (TCK), he vowed to use his global identity to make an impact in the world. He tells positive uplifting stories via different mediums and works with people of all sorts to help them become the best version of themselves. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter @TayoRockson or his website where he is actively making new friends every day.



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Be Okay With the Process

book-shelf brene brown quote

On Sunday I connected with a third culture kid younger than me, Tayo Rockson. We talked by Skype for an hour. It didn’t matter that the video portion was not working – it was a gift to connect with this man. Tayo had asked me to do a pod cast for him on third culture kids and there was not a single gap in conversation. We connected immediately through the common experience of wondering where home is and the challenge of identity. He has walked a journey from country to continent and city to city. His countries include Vietnam, Burkino Faso, Sweden, the United States, and his passport country — Nigeria. Tayo has a passion to use his global identity to make an impact in the world, to challenge other third culture kids to use their identity, to see it as a gift.

The questions Tayo asked were valuable and challenging. He began with the question “Where is Home?” We laughed about this – how could he, a third culture kid that knows how paralyzing this question can be still begin the interview with this question? But he did and he wouldn’t back down. We talked about many things — my journey, homesickness, identity, challenges, and successes. At the end he asked an important question: “What advice would you give others?” What would you say to others who are uprooted and live between worlds, never feeling completely a part of either? Through this blog I’ve written a lot about what I would say, but it can be summarized into this: Be okay with the process. Relax and allow room for change, change in your feelings, change in your sense of belonging, change in your connection to your past and all it holds. In the days since the interview I’ve expanded that to be more specific: Be okay with the process of owning your story.

Periodically I teach a train the trainer course on chronic disease self management. It’s an intense and excellent 4-day training. One of the things I say many times during the four days is “It’s not about the content, it’s about the process.” I do this because there are people who want more substantive content, they get restless. The principles we put forward are not rocket science, they are practical and simple and participants begin the course by wanting more. But sometimes practical and simple is like rocket science. And it struck me the other day as I was speaking with Tayo that the advice I would give to a third culture kid is the same: “It’s not about content, it’s about process. Be okay with the process.” The process of adapting to the country that claims you as citizen, even if you don’t claim it. The process of growing and feeling like a chameleon, bright with promise one day and grey as a stormy sky the next. The process of figuring out those big words with bigger meanings like home and identity, belonging and culture. “Be okay with the process of owning your own story.” 

We are people of flesh and blood, feelings and longings, hopes and dreams. And each of us has a story. Your story is unique to your background, your family, all the moves and places that shaped you and hold your heart. But knowing your story is one thing, owning it is another. Owning our stories takes time, it’s a process. And so I’ll close with a quote from Brené Brown: “You either walk inside your story and own it or you stand outside your story & hustle for your worthiness.” May we learn to walk inside our stories. May we learn to accept that we are a people in process. May we be freed from the bondage of hustling for our worthiness.

What advice would you give to third culture kids or the person who lives between worlds? It doesn’t matter whether you’re a TCK or not, we still want to hear from you! 

Here are the questions that Tayo posed to me that may help you as you think about process, as you think about owning your own story, as you think about walking inside your story. And if you would like to hear the podcast, here it is! Home is Where Your Story Begins – Episode 5 

  1. Can you map out your third culture/ nomadic experience and tell us why you moved so much?

  2. Where is home?

  3. Favorite country you enjoyed living in the most and why?

  4. Were you ever homesick and how did you deal with that?

  5. When did you first get a sense of an identity crisis and how did you deal with it?

  6. What was your journey like to being comfortable with yourself

  7. Can you talk about some of the challenges you faced growing up and how you dealt with them

  8. On the flip side how did it help you succeed?

  9. What is one piece of advice you can give to a TCK’s

  10. Where can we find out more about you and what are you up to?

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