Find Common Ground

Minute read
Find Common Ground

It’s not hard to preach to the choir. Or to mount an argument so agreeable that it won’t offend or challenge anyone. The business of wide-scale change-making affords us neither of these luxuries. Since you’re reading this, let’s assume it’s your job to reach the masses and challenge the status quo. Welcome to fiery opposition hitting you from both sides of the divide.

In a world that is increasingly polarized, the ‘grey area’ can be a challenging place. But that’s where impact lies.

The more polarizing a topic, the more ‘common ground’ techniques will help you reach the fringes of your audience and keep your message (rather than distracting debates) at the centre of attention. Give up now if your aim is to satisfy everyone. (You can’t. But maybe, you can get close).

The idea is simple: find the intersection of what different factions care about. Frame your message around that.

Finding common ground: venn diagram

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Steps to finding common ground

  1. Understand the ‘poles’ of your audience. Know their trigger points so you can more effectively navigate around them. Understand what motivates their positions—are there shared values there? If they are argumentative, what ‘need’ are they attempting to satisfy through debate? There may be ways you can proactively meet that need.
  2. Frame ideas around values. Construct messages in ways that puts values and outcomes (not tactics) at the heart of your narrative.
  3. Be positive. If parts of your audience are prone to the negative, shift the tone of conversation towards positive, tangible impacts of progress.
  4. Don’t judge. Model encouragement and support among your audience. Direct any culpability at a common opposition.
  5. Don’t compromise yourself. Building bridges can reach new audiences and foster greater understanding. But trying to please people can lead to ... people pleasing. If you can no longer deliver your message with authenticity, you’ve gone too far.

Put it into practice

Let’s put these principles to the test. Here are three scenarios where common ground theory can help make messaging more impactful and inclusive:

When it comes to sensitive topics, broadcast audiences are like tinderboxes. Segmentation can help navigate some polarized territories. But it’s no fail-safe. Common ground messaging can help maximize audience reach, minimize triggers and distracting debates, and keep your supporters focussed on effective action.

From: Top 10 ways to turbocharge your digital comms

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Karen Nilsen

Hi there! I’m Karen. I’m on a mission to reach my former self. Had I known 10 years ago what I know today, I could have achieved more good, made fewer mistakes, and had more weekends. Every time we share what works, we win faster. Let’s create digital experiences that move people — that grow our base and fuel our movements. Are you with me? Please share this with someone you know who wants to up their digital game!

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