If you want to have a real discussion, you need to start on common ground. If you don’t start on common ground, it’s like building a house on quicksand. The entire enterprise will quickly fall in on itself. The “discussion” will quickly turn to disrespect and insults. I talked about this on this Monday Minute.
We don’t see a lot of real discussions right now. We see debates. And there are plenty of arguments and insults. But actual discussions are pretty rare. It’s why I loved this interview with Trevor Noah and Representative Dan Crenshaw. It felt like a discussion…with adults.
But how do you find that common ground in order to have a discussion?
I have been thinking a lot about this, and while I am certainly not sure, I think it begins with a question.
“Can we agree…?”
We begin with a foundational question to see if we can agree that around foundation (or common ground) are the same. If we can’t agree to this question…maybe we shouldn’t continue. Or…maybe we discover where our ideas diverge in a less emotional way. Maybe.
I learned this from a good friend of mine years ago when talking about politics. I was lamenting the current leader in the Oval Office and he stopped me with this question. “Can we agree he is doing the best he can?”
When I say he stopped me…he really did. The honest fact is, I had never considered this! But as it broke me away from my emotion, I looked at my friend and said, “Yes. I am sure he is doing the best he can.” And the conversation completely changed. The tone was different…and the discussion was more productive.
So the next time you find yourself wading into dangerous conversational territories (and you actually want to keep going), give that a try. Ask the other person, “Can we agree…?” and see if you can find some common ground. It might take the emotion out of a tough discussion…and make it worth having.
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