The hardest conversations we ever have are those where there’s little common ground. It’s hard to find the common ground when it’s littered with graffiti,
whether that graffiti is physical or verbal. When you can find common ground, you can move from being on opposite sides of an issue to sitting side by side working towards resolution.
One of those conversations with little common ground is the issue of Confederate monuments on public display.
Over the past few weeks Confederate monuments have been defaced, sprayed with graffiti, and damaged in other ways. This week it was our turn here in Charlotte as two Confederate monuments were vandalized in the center of the city.
What strikes me about the acts here and across the country is that these statements of beliefs and desires occur in secret, in the dead of night. They are not statements made in a public forum where an exchange of ideas can occur. There is no opportunity to speak your mind, listen to the other side, acknowledge different needs and wants, and to agree to work together towards a mutually satisfying resolution. As an American with ancestors on both sides of the war, I find the Confederate flag offensive and I also understand the desire to commemorate the lives of those who served their country and gave their lives to uphold their beliefs. Even though I disagree with a major element of their core beliefs.
The Choice for Common Ground
It makes me wonder about situations you might encounter weekly, and ask: when do you choose to engage in conversation? When do you assume conversation is impossible? When do you choose to stop listening? When do you make conversation impossible by spraying over the other person’s words with verbal graffiti?
A few weeks ago I wrote about how the city of Charleston, SC, stood at the crossroads.
They chose to walk the hard path, the path that invites engagement, understanding, and a just resolution to the murder of nine people at the Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
It’s easier to see the choices you have if remember that when you encounter others, it’s not for the purpose of changing them. Every conversation is your opportunity to find common ground, to learn information, to gain and grow from ideas and perspectives that are new to you. Once you have discovered the common ground, you can begin to address the uncommon areas.
Listening for Common Ground
Listening is always an effective choice. By listening, I don’t mean standing silently, pretending to listen, while instantly forgetting everything you hear. If you have teens, or work with teens, or ever were a teen, you know that trick.
You already have all the skills you need to listen. If you’ve ever been on a first date, you know how to listen with the intention of finding some common ground. If you’ve ever talked with a young child who is just learning how to express herself, you know how to listen to understand what is meant, as well as to what is said.
The question is, do you have the will to use those skills? The next confrontation you encounter, which path will you take?
Live Honest, Open and True
Finding common ground is a key to finding resolution to any situation. By listening with the intention of understanding the other person’s point of view, not to change it, you can discover your common ground.
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What do you do when you feel your conversational options have hit a dead end? Tell me about it in the comments or tweet me @lifeishotblog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!