The key to common ground is listening. But what is the key to listening?

Very inciteful point here by progressive political commentator and think tank Movement Vision Lab CEO Sally Kohn, who was also a Fox News Contributor. Political correctness is fine but of no value to anyone without what Ms. Kohn calls “emotional correctness”. That is, the willingness to understand an opposing position and why one’s opponent has that view. Listening is the critical skill in finding common ground. But without the emotional correctness Ms. Kohn describes, listening is not possible. Everyone has the capability to listen, but we hope more will demonstrate that capability and “seek first to understand, then to be understood” as Stephen Covey put it in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.

An Icon of Progressive Politics Reaches Out to Conservative Friends

Joan Blades is a co-founder of MoveOn.Org, widely recognized as a standard bearer for progressive politics. However, Ms. Blades is also what we call a “common grounder” having co-founded Living Room Conversations, an organization dedicated to transforming “distrust and discord into understanding — paving the way for collaborative solutions”.

In this piece from the Christian Science Monitor (Common Ground Committee’s media partner) Ms. Blades elegantly makes a compelling case for building relationships that enable the discovery of common ground. Bravo, Ms. Blades!

Being a Good Scout – How the BSA is approaching the Hottest Issue in America

Few topics are as heated today as that of immigration. And while the controversy centers around a ban on incoming residents of seven predominately Muslim nations, the conversation has led to a national debate on who has the right to live here and who should be denied.

The Boy Scouts of America – no stranger to other current disputes – offers each summer an International Camp Staff Program where scouts from around the world are invited to lead a summer BSA camp. It is positioned as an opportunity for scouts from other countries to share cultures and becomes a chance to show American openness and hospitality. Many of these camps are in states that support President Trump’s immigration policies and have less exposure to immigrants than the coastal states. This kind of work nurtures the “light” we seek and helps cool the “heat” we want to purge from public discourse.

In stormy Senate, a timely moment of truce

Bi-partisan admiration expressed for Senator Hatch suggests there is “light” in the Senate. Read the article HERE

How to Prevent Gun Deaths? Where Experts and the Public Agree

To make progress when an issue is emotionally charged it is crucial to find “low-hanging fruit” – solutions that are palatable to both sides and are likely to have a positive impact.

This piece from the New York Times does just that on the issue of how to prevent gun deaths. It lays out 29 gun control ideas in a way that shows how popular they are among the public and the degree to which experts in the field believe those ideas, if implemented, would be effective. Ideas with high popularity and high effectiveness are great “low-hanging fruit” possibilities. We applaud this kind research and reporting because it enables people – including leaders and decision-makers – to go beyond talking points. Of course, emotional arguments without the facts will still be made. But armed with this kind of data, it is easier to cut through those arguments and make the case for meaningful change.

Solutions Are Possible: Post-Election Poll Indicates

Progress on important and divisive issues requires many things. But first and foremost is the belief that progress is possible. Without that, there is no reason to engage, no reason to listen, no reason to do the hard work required to move forward. So it is encouraging to us to see the MacArthur Foundation’s recent “Perspectives” post by Julia M. Stasch, “Solutions Are Possible: Post-Election Poll Indicates”. The net-net, regardless of region, race, education or preferred presidential candidate people overwhelmingly believe it is possible to find solutions to the most pressing problems we face. That’s a great way to be thinking as we get set for 2017, a year that will undoubtedly test people’s resolve to be civil in public discourse and willing to hear facts and positions presented by those they disagree with.

A New Center

Here’s a great piece by two political opponents, Bill Kristol and William Galston that finds common ground on fundamental principles. Yes, there is an implied message here that many people may not appreciate. But the fact that two people who see the world very differently from a strategy perspective would stand together on principles despite the political risk is another proof point that we can improve our public discourse in a way that can bring meaningful change. Hats off to Kristol and Galston!

How to reunite America by disagreeing agreeably

Is there any hope the deep wounds in our public discourse can be healed?

Common Ground Committee is about doing just that. A skeptic might say that this organization, while well-meaning, is just a “voice crying in the wilderness”. We would, respectfully, disagree. We believe that the level and intensity of polarization is so bad that the pendulum of public discourse is now starting to swing back toward civility and respect. Citizens like us and even some political leaders are deciding “enough already”.

In this Christian Science Monitor piece, “How to reunite America by disagreeing agreeably”, Ralph Benko examines the notion that polarization could be a prelude to a renewal of “From many, one.” We found it encouraging. We hope you do, too.

The Algorithms of Fear

The Algorithms of Fear recently published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review brings new and needed insight to the insidious tendency in today’s political landscape to maintain the division between people who hold different views and have different paradigms. As we learned when Facebook was accused of a politically left bias in its “trending” news section, the media world heavily relies on algorithms to address its audiences. Algorithms are pieces of computer software that follow sets of rules to make calculations or solve problems. They are very good at “automatically” delivering content and information that people’s past online activity suggests they want.

But in this emotionally-charged political climate that’s a problem. If we are to make any progress on the tough issues that face us what’s needed is for people to be exposed to the other side of issues, to understand the reasoning and supporting evidence for the other person’s position.

The solution? The article suggests that government regulation combined with additional tools armed with algorithms “with new kinds of social values” are needed. Those solutions could very well make a difference.

But when passionate about an issue we would encourage people to take advantage of today’s technology and diverse media outlets to expose themselves to the dynamics that drive the opposing view. It doesn’t take much time and it will better position people to be part of a solution rather than put more fuel on the fire of the problem.

Trump and Ryan Work to Find Common Ground

What a potentially great example of finding common ground. Donald Trump surprised the entire Republican elite by becoming the presumptive presidential candidate. His positions are changeable and many not aligned with conservative principals. Trump says the party is the Republican party, not the conservative party. Paul Ryan says he is not there in endorsing Trump. This has all the makings of a knock-down confrontation.

Instead, they are committed to seeking common ground to reach a goal; electing a Republican president and ensuring a successful down ticket win. At the end of their meeting, they both remarked that the meeting was good and helpful. The meeting was civil. Although they are not quite where they need to be, the process of civil discourse to reach a common goal is on display during this process. Will they find common ground? Not certain yet. Are they working a process to see if they can find common ground? Yes.