Finding Common Ground

two people shaking hands

Years ago, a friend of mine and I discussed an important idea when it comes to human relationships. He argued that we should focus on where we agree with others, rather than where we disagree. This struck me as a good concept to ponder further, and eventually my thoughts on the matter grew into what became this essay. What he was basically referring to in so many words was the idea of finding common ground, which should be at the heart of maintaining any relationship, whether platonic, professional, romantic, or otherwise.

Being diplomatic with people is nowadays important more than ever when drama and conflict abound in everyday life. It seems too many human conflicts emerge from simple misunderstandings over trivial things. These unproductive bouts of conflict add an unnecessary negative breed of “excitement” into our lives. Of course, too many people spend more time focusing on one another’s differences than our similarities. Sadly, much of the time we don’t even catch ourselves in the act of doing it, which is a problem.

I’ve always found the best thing to do when initiating any sort of relationship is to find something in common. It doesn’t matter how small that thing might be. In any sort of diplomatic situation, you have to find common ground. It’s surprising how having just one thing in common can lead to a very productive relationship, if that relationship is properly nurturing through the continuation of finding further commonalities, while better understanding one another’s unique and inevitable differences.

Unfortunately, too many people tend to stay within certain boundaries. There seem to be more social boundaries now than ever, both personal and professional. Cliques are forming at an exponential rate, a trend sociologists refer to as tribalism. It may seem easy at first to spend all your time with people who share the same opinions as you. But, even within cliques, there can be further splinter groups that get into loud and often ugly conflicts with one another. While I could go on about how certain groups will assign labels to their cliques or affiliations, this isn’t what I’m trying to get at. In fact, I’m trying to promote the exact opposite. We should NOT affiliate ourselves based on arbitrary decisions enacted by acts of group-think.

How has this happened? It turns out that focusing on where you ONLY agree and not paying attention to where you disagree is in fact the root of the problem. Understanding why you disagree with someone else can teach you to be more agreeable and tolerant of other’s views, even when they may be diametrically opposed to your own. The fact is that unless you can find common ground with others, you will only fall into some sort of conflict, whether or not that was the intended goal by either party.

If You Agree to Disagree, Then Understand Why

While you do need to focus on where you agree with others, you also have to focus on where you disagree. Conflicts are inevitable, but you can’t let disagreements grow into major points of contention if they’re left unchecked. In order to stop this from happening, you’ll need to dedicate some time not just towards finding common ground, but also put some focus on what you don’t agree on.

While these might make for a few tough conversations at first, it’s important to remember that it’s OK if both sides inevitably are wrong from the other’s point of view. It’s also important to try not to take anything personally when someone disagrees with your ideas or values. Otherwise, you’ll find that your relationships will suffer badly from that lack of understanding as time goes on. If you don’t work through potential issues now and gain a better understanding of what makes either of you uncomfortable, your relationships will end up eventually being strained and possibly fractured for years to come.

The stronger connection that’s built between two or more people, the better chance that the lot of you will have of resolving disagreements. So, it’s not simply enough to “agree to disagree” with people if you want to have truly lasting and productive relationships. Simply agreeing to disagree can end up with relationships fraught with awkwardness or eventual painful disassociation.

The solution to avoiding broken relationships could be as a simple as having conversations about coming to terms with why we disagree and learn how to relate to one another’s differences. Yes, when people actually set aside emotionally charged arguments and are willing to see the other’s side, you can have successful and happy relationships with even people you at first despised.

Today, I urge you to see all that you have in common with those you know, then embrace and nurture those connections. Try to be diplomatic, and when disagreements arise, work to come to a better understanding of each others’ perspectives and experiences. You may find both of you will take away a positive, educational experience from these conversations. Of course, you can’t have a truly positive relationship with someone without making sure that the negative does not build up out of control.

Nowadays, there is so much negative energy abound, and you must be sure that you don’t fall victim to it. Always keep a positive outlook, but don’t simply avoid situations that may be uncomfortable due to potential disagreement. In learning how to overcome the awkwardness and potential dangers that come with disagreements, you may find true friends in surprising places.

Related: Celebrating Infinite Diversity: Why We Should Embrace Our Differences

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.
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