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Common ground?

中国日报网 2023-02-08 18:15


Reader question:

Please explain “common ground”, as in “Negotiation is about finding common ground.”


My comments:

Here, common ground means shared interests.

Shared interests?

Yeah, in other words, benefits for both parties.

A trade negotiation, for example, aims to make a deal that will benefit both parties. Without a deal, nobody gains anything.

Recognizing this common interest, or common ground, enables negotiators to compromise, to give up a little, for example, in order to get the deal done.

Common ground, literally, refers to a place that everybody goes to for various activities. The old village well, for example, is a piece of common ground where all families went to fetch water. The playground in the neighbourhood, for example, is where everyone goes for a leisurely walk or, increasingly, where grandmas congregate and do their daily dance routines.

Common, obviously, means open to all. In the past, if someone wanted to keep the village well to their own family, well, fist fights would ensue. Nowadays, we see disputes between grandmas and kids trying to play ball in the neighborhood playground.

Negotiations are about recognizing that common ground and mending differences on the strength of that common ground.

Metaphorically speaking, common ground stands for any shared interests, ideas, beliefs between people who also have a lot to disagree on.

Interestingly, if people don’t have any common ground to share whatsoever, they won’t fight each other to begin with.

That’s the irony. As the late Alan Watts once pointed out, using the animal world as an example, tigers and whales never fight. They have no common ground. Tigers roam on land. Whales dwell in the ocean. They never fight.

Fights only happen to animals as well as people who share a common ground.

That’s the irony.

Recognizing that common ground and cherishing it, hence, is the first step toward making a deal.

Or, on a larger scale, toward world peace.

Here are media examples of “common ground”:

1 Whether you’re talking with someone you know or with a stranger, you won’t always agree on everything.

We all come from different backgrounds. As a result, we see things differently and hold different beliefs.

But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to agree, or at least be amicable and respectful. By finding common ground, you can see eye-to-eye with someone else for a moment.It then becomes easier to see eye-to-eye on other topics you previously didn’t agree on at all.

It doesn’t mean that you'll end up changing your mind. Or, that the other person will. But you will realize that there are areas of agreement, and you might walk away feeling less diametrically opposed. You’ll be more able to work together toward common goals.

Let’s explore what is common ground and how you can use it as a communication tool to become better at conflict resolution.

What is common ground?

Common ground is a topic, opinion, or interest that two or more people can agree about. Even when two people disagree on something, common ground can help bring them together.

Too often, whether at work or in life, we focus on our differences. It’s easy to fixate on the parts of someone’s argument or beliefs that we disagree with – we don’t even notice all of the parts where we agree.

When you find common ground with someone, you don’t have to agree on everything. You have overlapping interests or topics of agreement with the other person. But there is still ground you don’t share or agree on.

- Finding common ground with anyone: A quick and easy guide, BetterUp.com, August 25, 2021.


2 Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden held beginning talks on Wednesday discussing the U.S. government borrowing limits in a first attempt at working together. The meeting ended well as McCarthy said the two had found “common ground.”

“The President and I had a good first meeting,” said McCarthy to reporters after the almost one-and-a-half-hour meeting ended. “I shared my perspective with him, and he shared his,” said the Speaker.

“I can see where we can find common ground,” said McCarthy.

The President and Republicans are locked in a standoff over boosting the federal government’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling.

Before the meeting, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said to reporters, “The president is looking forward to working closely and trying to figure out how we can deliver with Republicans who are willing to work in a good faith, bipartisan way.”

- House Speaker: McCarthy, Biden Found ‘Common Ground’ in Debt Meeting, RedStateAmerica.com, February 2, 2023.


3 As discussions on a new labor agreement continue, the NBA and National Basketball Players Association are expected to extend an early opt-out deadline of Wednesday, allowing the league and union to continue negotiations on a new long-term collective bargaining deal, sources told ESPN on Monday.

As the sides pursue an early labor deal, a significant part of what has allowed discussions to progress has been the NBA’s willingness to soften from its original push for an upper spending limit on team payrolls – a de facto hard cap, sources said.

The NBA’s seven-year CBA expires after the 2023-24 season, but Wednesday’s deadline – already extended from Dec. 15 – pushes back both sides’ ability to opt out of the current deal on June 30 and risk the possibility of a lockout.

The NBA’s board of governors voted Friday to give the league’s labor relations committee the approval to give notice of a June 30 opt-out on a labor deal or extend that opt-out again, sources told ESPN. The league and union’s expected decision to extend that date for a second time is rooted in the belief that there’s enough common ground in discussions to keep pursuing an early labor deal– without inviting the uncertainty that would come out of declaring an opt-out.

If the league or union opts out of the current deal effective at the start of free agency on that date, the league's business would shut down. Trades and free agent acquisitions would cease without a new labor agreement. The risk of losing regular-season games would begin in October.

The introduction of the upper spending limit into talks had been rooted in the desire of smaller-market teams to rein in the spending of franchises such as the Golden State Warriors, LA Clippers and Brooklyn Nets, sources said. In the wake of those large-market contenders accumulating outsize payrolls and luxury tax penalties, the NBA had proposed a system that would replace the luxury tax with a hard limit that teams could not exceed to pay salaries, sources said.

Sides expected to extend NBA CBA early opt-out date, ABCNews.com, February 7, 2023.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


(作者:张欣  编辑:yaning)



Through the roof?


Safety in numbers?


Tough it out?


Agree to disagree?




Curve ball?

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