“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
– Evelyn Beatrice Hall
Our 2020 election reminds us of the diverse views we hold individually, and the opinions we share. We agree or disagree and then cast our votes.
How do we express our point of view and partner with others who see things differently? How do we find common ground?
We need to look for it.
A good place to start is exploring our similarities. Our journey begins with being agreeable with each other.
Psychologists confirm agreeableness is a key component of healthy relationships. Agreeableness is one of the five factors of the Big Five personality theory. The theory explains how a person with a high level of agreeableness is usually warm, friendly, and tactful. They have an optimistic view of human nature and get along well with others. They get results through relationships.
One of my early mentors really understood the importance of finding common ground. I remember a meeting she facilitated where there were strong opposing views toward a changing company policy. An impasse was underway. She patiently listened to each side.
Once everyone had been heard, she asked: “What do we all agree on?” Following a few moments of silence, one individual shared his assessment of where they stood together. The discussion continued with thoughts of agreement, and disagreement. As the meeting ended, there was greater positive energy among the group and clarity of the need to further research the two areas where they differed.
As this meeting demonstrated, we must be open to alternative views. How we respond in every conversation sets the tone for what happens next.
Here are three examples of how we respond to information received from others:
Affirmation: Interesting. Good point.
Skepticism: Well. We already tried that.
Resignation: It is what it is. What can we do about it?
How do you respond to information from others? Does it depend on who the information is coming from? Understand your reaction to promote more positive action.
Three keys to finding common ground through agreeability:
Common ground is shared property – not ours. We need to manage our self-interests to make room for others.
We need to establish a fair process where alternative views are honored, and individuals are respected. You may disagree with someone professionally – the key is to affirm their ideas and respect them personally.
Asking questions is a key driver of moving toward common ground. Listening to the views of others and ask questions to clarify. Resist advocating and defending your position at the cost of team success.
Common ground is fertile territory worth searching for, both at work and in our communities.
All My best,