Jeremy Chandler wrote this piece in 2017. It is just as valuable and relevant today.
By Jeremy Chandler July 6, 2017
Why does the idea of having a conversation with someone we disagree with create knots in our stomach?
Maybe it’s because we’re afraid of what they might say to us or how they might make us feel. Maybe it’s because we’ve seen how they’ve acted on social media and we don’t want to deal with that kind of interaction in real life.
Whether it’s fear or not wanting to be overly bothered by a difficult conversation, many of us avoid difficult conversations with people who have differing opinions. We don’t want to deal with the aftermath of engaging in dialogue with people who don’t think the same way we do.
But what if there was a way to approach the conversation in a way that didn’t leave us feeling hurt, frustrated, or angry? I think there might be.
5 Characteristics of a Common Ground Conversation
Here are a few concepts so we can find common ground to have more meaningful and useful conversations:
- Be Fully Present in the Conversation
Finding common ground requires listening; you need to be fully present in the moment. Setting boundaries that allow you to be wholeheartedly engaged in the conversation, not distracted by your phone or another problem you’re thinking about in your head changes the nature of how you listen.
- Realize and Vocalize the Things You Agree On
It’s difficult to find common ground when we focus on the things we disagree about. But if we take a step back, we realize that despite our differences, we actually agree about more things than we disagree about.
For example, we all believe in human dignity. We all agree that what’s best for people is what’s best. We may not always agree on what’s best for people. But we can all agree that what’s best for people is what’s best.
- Seek Understanding More than Being Right
If both people are more concerned about being right than they are understanding one another, no one wins. However, when we approach the conversation in a posture of trying to truly understand the other person, we create a path toward finding a solution. Creating the environment for a common ground conversation requires laying down your need to be right.
- Honor the Other Person
Honor isn’t really a concept we use when talking about personal relationships anymore. And yet, we all long to feel important and valued.
We must remember that conversation is about more than the topic that is discussed. When we seek to honor the other person, despite their brokenness and flaws, it allows us to not only create a more pleasant conversation, but add value to their lives.
- Commit to Communicate with Kindness
Kindness is more than being nice or defaulting to the other person’s point of view. It’s about bringing goodness into the conversation. Even if it’s a difficult conversation with differing points of view, there is a way to be kindhearted in the way you say things or how you respond.
A Quick Word of Warning
Before you run off and jump right into a conversation with your diametric counterpart, I want to remind you that these skills take time to build. You’re going to mess up. There will be conversations when tensions rise and you humiliate yourself. But the key is to learn from your mistakes. Even being willing to follow up with the other person and ask, “How could I have said this differently” is a step toward finding common ground.
When we embrace these ideas and have conversations with people who share different opinions, we will find ourselves growing into better versions of ourselves significantly more than if we’d allowed the knot in our stomach to keep us from reaching out and taking the risk.