This is often emphasized as a goal of dialogue and something that ought to be welcome for people on both sides. Others see common ground as a notion that can be used as a weapon against those wanting to preserve a space to disagree.
In this sense, some use ‘common ground’ almost in the sense of compromise. By contrast, in the conflict resolution world common ground refers to the area of genuine overlap/shared goals or interests but with no obscuring of the areas where differences remain. That sense of common ground allows for common action by people who retain disagreements but have some common goals that they believe they can better advance by working together, even when at times for different reasons. The current efforts on criminal justice reform are an example of the latter. Conservatives are more likely to emphasize moneysaving and liberals mistreatment but there’s agreement on actions to reform the system. Search for Common Ground’s motto is “understand the differences, act on the commonalities” - expressing its understanding of common ground. (www.sfcg.org) The advantage of this approach is twofold: constructive joint action is possible even where differences remain; working relationships are developed that build trust, comity and potential for future problem-solving.
QUESTIONS TO PLAY WITH:
- Have you had an experience where you were able to work together on something important to you, with someone who was in some way your opponent/not on your side? What made that possible?
- Have you ever been surprised to learn that you have similarities/similar views to someone you assumed was totally your opposite? What was your “take-away” from that experience?” How did it make you feel to make that discovery?
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