Finding The Highest Common Factor Is A Surprisingly Powerful Practice

All it takes is a little time, thought and some beetroot brownies

Highest Common Factor mugs.
Photo by Iga Palacz on Unsplash

You may or may not remember how to find the Highest Common Factor of say, 54 and 30. It’s simply a special value that connects the numbers. It shows that even though two numbers may seem different, when you break them down properly, they’re made of the same building blocks.

Finding the Highest Common Factor you share with another human being is a much better use of your time.

If you have a sibling, chances are there are stark differences between you. Perhaps you have a steady job while they’ve chosen a more unusual path. You may feel your best around other people while they love curling up reading Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons with a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

Deeper differences in the way you think can affect the way you interact. Let’s be real, sibling fights can get ugly — few other people in your life know exactly how to trigger you and would willingly aim a used pair of socks at your forehead.

Now it isn’t possible, or even desirable perhaps, to completely avoid conflict with your siblings or for that matter, anyone you love. We fight, ironically, because of the things and people we care for. Arguments can sometimes be really valuable — they help us get to the root of an issue and see things we wouldn’t otherwise have picked up on.

It helps to remember, however, that you also share more with your sibling than you do with perhaps any other human being. They’re the only other people you know who was as excited about the Pokemon cards you collected growing up. The two of you still remember the taste of the sweet and sour chicken from the old restaurant that was two streets down from your house. Some of your inside jokes would make other people question your sanity. And most importantly, you would stick up for each other in a way no one else would.

Those things are probably more important than the issues you don’t see eye-to-eye on.

If we stop to look closely enough, it’s not just our siblings. We are more similar to the people around us than we might’ve ever considered.

A few months ago, courtesy of COVID-19, I discovered that my neighbour and I would both turn 30 in the midst of lockdown. We started talking and found that we both grew up in small towns and share a love of languages, being outdoors and making things with our hands. When I realised I had gotten over-excited at a market stall and bought more blueberries than I could possibly eat, I left a box outside her door. When she baked special beetroot brownies, she placed a box outside mine.

She wants to get better at conversing in Spanish and I’ve missed speaking French since I learnt it at school. So on Sundays, we go for a walk and speak in each language for half the time. As we do this, I learn about her job as a social media content producer and tell her about my life as a maths tutor. And none of this might have happened had we not exchanged a few emails and gone slightly beyond the usual niceties.

The next time we have a conversation with anyone – a parent, a client, a stranger – it may be an idea to start looking for the ways in which we are similar. Most of us want to be liked, feel like we’re not doing enough, have at least three strange habits and would really rather be eating pizza and watching a movie at any given time. Those are good places to start.

And if all else fails, there’s always devil’s food cake. If the person you’re talking to doesn’t share your love for that, it’s perfectly all right (advisable, even) to go talk to someone else.

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