Making a Common Ground statement is an important means of starting to resolve a conflict or beginning a negotiation.
Too often we engage in a conflict by stating our demands but this induces the other person to do the same. This can lead to a “Yes but” / “No but” argument.
Agreeing common ground puts you both (metaphorically) on the same side of the table to work towards resolving the problem.
Here are five ways of going about finding and agreeing on common ground.
1 Ask a question
Ask the other person [OP] a question, then listen for an opportunity to say “Me too!”
Me: “What’s important to you in resolving this?”
OP: “I want to make sure this doesn’t happen again”
Me: “Me too, I want to make sure of that too”
If their first answer is not something you agree with, ask “What else is important to you?”.
2 Listen carefully
We often hear the negative in the other person’s words. Listen carefully for something you agree with – even if they didn’t quite mean it that way.
OP: “We’re going to lose customers if this continues and I think they deserve better”
Me: “I agree –the customer is important and I want to work with you on delivering the best result for them”
3 Look to the future
Raise your horizons and look for a higher level of interest. We often hear this in major negotiations, when there are big differences between the parties but, looking to the future, they all want the same thing:
“We all agree we want a stable and sustainable economic outcome”
4 ‘How’ rather than ‘what’
If you can’t find common ground in ‘what’ you want, you might find it in the ‘how’.
Look for common ground in an agreed process to resolve the situation:
“I think we’re in agreement that the way forward here is to…”
5 Say it
When you can be certain of the OP’s viewpoint, just say it:
“Look, what we both want is to get this resolved before the lawyers get involved”.