What common ground looks like

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If I’ve learned anything about this work to undivide a toxically divided nation, it’s that it is 100 percent a shared job. No one person has the solution. Each of us carries a thread of critical wisdom that, woven together, gives us direction—and hope. 

Recently we asked you to describe what common ground between liberals and conservatives (and anyone in between) looks like. Hundreds of you responded, braiding together a picture so rich with your comments, I found myself reading them over and over for days. 

So today, I’m going to show you what you created, in a new form. 

Using only the words and phrases you shared with each other on our Facebook and Instagram posts, here is your portrait of one of the most elusive but precious things we seek to build a house united. 

How to find common ground: A Portrait by the Braver Angels community

It starts by listening to each other, without labeling or jumping to assumptions, acknowledging that people on both sides are trying to do what they think is best. (Becky D. and Theron H.)

The first step is to stop seeking to find support for your view, but to just seek truth. (Mark H.) There needs to be some agreed upon shared reality. (Linda S.) Some mutual interpretation of what democracy means and working toward that. (Renee G.) 

We’ve all got to come to the understanding that we can’t argue the other side into thinking the same way we do, and try and understand the origins of the perceived need and feelings of the other. (Harold R., enduringspirit74) We cannot lose sight of each other as human beings with wants and needs and fears similar to our own. (Jen C.)

The second step is to realize that we are constantly being baited to feel anger about the other party. (Mark H.) Not everyone has left values, or right values. It’s a spectrum with a lot of shades in between. (Vicki R.) We need representation and choices so people don’t feel like they have to choose a side. (Jon P.) We agree that nobody wins when the goal is total victory/total defeat. (Monte S.) 

We need to agree on grace and an honest concern for the common good. (Richard B. and Dan E.) No more shaming anyone anymore. (Dan E.) Talk about values, goals, and objectives. Focus on our shared values. (DeeDee W.) The disagreements are often about methods of achieving goals, rather than the goals themselves. (Becky D.) The divisive language has to end before anything good can begin. (Rebecca O.)

Common ground is the common denominator—flesh, bone, and the same basic needs. (Rich G.) It looks like conversation, like intelligent dialogue among people who want to solve problems, and act in ways that do not dehumanize, degrade or dismiss people needing to express other points of view. (Matt W. and Jan W.) 

It’s about all of us giving and getting in a way that creates a healthy nation. (Renee R.) It looks like community building because that’s what it is. (Jan. W.)

More to explore

3 thoughts on “What common ground looks like”

  1. We also need to stop ridiculing one another, especially on social media. This is an area where I’ve been guilty of at least “liking” comments that ridicule others. Instead, we could try to be curious. At the same time, though, we need to acknowledge that some people are just plain mean. And often they’ll use religion to supposedly justify their words and actions. We cannot make peace with everyone. But we can try to find some middle ground with those who are open to it and we can do a better job of being open to it. I will keep on trying to do that, though I’ll admit I’ve failed often in this divisive political climate.

  2. obvious to me is that we must grow the purple part of our interaction. let’s start with our representatives in congress……who play follow the leader……..and do not adequately represent the many blue and red opinions in their constituencies….

  3. We need an objective source of information, free of influence and coercion. We can not find common ground when one believes that the sky is blue naturally and the other thinks that it was painted that way. I don’t think we’ve ever really had that; what we have had is a dialog about views of information. Now, I think our sources are corrupted by bias and censorship like they never have been. We need to agree what the issue is before we can talk about it. I’m hearing this even in Braver Angels podcasts and even the BA approach. I think we need to start with uniform, agreed upon definitions and data sources before we can even try to find ways to agree on them.

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