July 19, 2021

The Complexity of Common Ground

Now, it seems, perhaps more than ever, we are “missing” one another.

Our interactions can feel like brutal battlegrounds of ideology rather than connective conversations.

Our relational networks can feeling like they are pooling at opposite ends of the spectrum called “who’s with me and who’s against me.”

Now, more than ever, the idea of common ground feels like a fantasy. And, it is, when we pretend that common ground means we have to agree with one another about everything, or that we should talk about everything in isolation from history or culture. We can’t do those things.

In light of this, I was honored to be asked by a nonprofit resource center in northeast Ohio to design and facilitate an event to explore the nature of common ground, and seek to help people more effectively create and sustain it.

I called the event series “The Complexity of Common Ground,” and attempted to shape it around 2 ideas that often serve as barriers to authentic connection.

  • Session 1: Common Ground Doesn’t Mean Neutral Ground
    • Summary: Understanding the context of our experiences, opinions, and perspectives, and being able to effectively position them within larger historical and cultural frameworks, is a crucial step toward building common ground that allows for a more nuanced and complex space for conversation, disagreement, and resolution.
  • Session 2: Common Ground Doesn’t Mean Simple Ground 
    • Summary: Working toward common ground means we are actively disrupting binary thinking and seeking to complicate the broad narrative that some people are with us and some are against us. It means we are learning to “live” in the gray area between same and different and between agree and disagree, and that we are learning to hear and hold the truths of others’ experiences.

Additionally, we also referenced a couple of TEDTalk videos for further exploration:

This event series was sponsored by Adelante: The Latino Resource Center, and it was a pleasure to work with them to create and provide this as a resource to the public.

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