Finding Common Ground

If you attended the May 2024 Difficult Discussions in Diversity session you know that in our June 15th meeting we are continuing the conversation this month. Zoom link is at the end of this post.

Caveat: you do not need to have attended the May meeting to join us and participate in June.

How do we find common ground with people with whom we seem to have nothing common?

That was brilliantly illustrated in conversations during our May meeting when we were talking about the different decisions one might make if they viewed “the future” as being tomorrow or maybe next week instead of something “out there” and beyond out reach.

Because of that discussion I learned that other people were making different choices than perhaps they made even a few years ago in an effort to leave a lighter  carbon footprint on the earth…common ground.

And that is a key to finding common ground.

It’s actually a very simple process based on Dr. William Glasser’s Choice Theory’s© concepts of Basic Needs and Quality Worlds.

Dr. Glasser taught that we all have Five Basic Needs. Four of them are Psychological Needs (Love and Belonging, Power, Fun, Freedom) and one is Physiological (Survival).

What makes those Basic Needs so important is our Quality World where we each have multi-sensory images of experiences (people, places, things) that are the best at matching a Quality World

What’s in our Quality World? Here’s a short list.

Our favorite people

Our favorite foods

Our favorite things

Our favorite music

Also in our Quality World are things like our beliefs (think religion, politics, etc.).

In addition, if they help us match or protect a Quality World picture, you may find drugs,
alcohol and guns.

Getting back to common ground…

One of my handouts when I’m teaching is labeled “Questioning Strategies”. I found during the years when I worked in social services with people who really didn’t want to have anything to do with me, the strategy I call “Needs Assessment Survey” helped me establish the relationship I needed to not only do my job but also engage in a constructive way with whomever I was working.

What is the “Questioning Strategy”? 

A systematic, sort of, conversation with whomever I was talking to about those Basic Needs in
an effort to determine two things

#1 – Which of those Basic Needs was the strongest. Was the woman staying in an abusive relationship because of her Love and Belonging need was strong? Or perhaps it
was more because of Survival.

#2 – Where are the connections? What did I have in common with her? Where was our common ground?

When I first started my formal training with Dr. Glasser, he taught “The 8 Steps of Reality Therapy”. Step One? “Make Friends”. He was very clear this did not mean going to lunch or having a personal relationship with the client. What he did mean was to engage with this person as if they were a friend.

The first step in “Make Friends” was to establish an environment where the client would be comfortable in talking with us. Would feel at ease. And thus would be more likely to talk to us about what truly was going on.

The concept of “Make Friends” was invaluable to me during the 29+ years I worked in domestic and
international adoptions. I knew that gaining the trust of the family and the children was important to my success in finding the best match for the family because that would increase the probability children coming into their home would settle more easily into their new life.

Using this strategy of “making friends” allows us to find common ground, develop a relationship that is strong enough to move forward to discuss (or choose not to discuss) those topics that separate us.

Giving information to someone who views the world significantly different from how we view it is doomed to fail in terms of influencing the other person to change if we have not established common ground.

Like many, I was glued to my television set and watch the Total Solar Eclipse flow from the west coast of Mexico through Texas, etc. on up into Maine. In virtually each setting I heard reporters comment on how “together” everyone was, how watching this historical solar eclipse demonstrated that we were not as fractured as a country as we are often portrayed.

That is a sterling example of what I’m talking about. The fascination and thrill of watching a Total Solar Eclipse brought people of varying political, religious and cultural backgrounds together to share space and time. And from what I observed, people were interacting with each other and not questioning what they believed about politics, religion or differing cultural backgrounds.

I’m not saying that 100% of everyone was oblivious to the differences in the people surrounding them. What I am saying is that it wasn’t a problem. It didn’t inspire divisive language. In those moments leading up to, through and in the aftermath, the common bond was strong enough to curtail discord much less violence.

The question then becomes “Can we put aside our concerns over beliefs and focus on those lesser issues to find common ground?”

As Dr. Glasser taught us “The only person’s behavior we can change in our own.” Remembering that and noting that if we want to attempt to influence someone to our view of the world, they first have to see us as someone with whom they have something in common.

And if you want to know more about The Levels of Perception that make the previous paragraph even clearer, find a copy of Dr. Glasser’s “Stations of The Mind”. Or add a comment and I’ll respond with them.

In the meantime, do mark your calendar for the 3rd Saturday of the month and plan to join the group discussion. We start at 2 p.m.Eastern (11 a.m. Pacific). Link is below!

Zoom Meeting:

ID: 868 4605 5313
Passcode: 662804

Judith attended her first Basic Training in August 1978. She was certified in Reality Therapy© in August 1979 and became an Intensive Week Trainer and Practicum Supervisor in 1981. In 1991, Judith was approved as Senior Faculty by Dr. William Glasser. She has taught all phases of the Certification Program and presented workshops at Conferences in the United States and Internationally. Currently Judith is the Northwest Region’s representative on the GIFCT-US Board as well as president of the NW Region.