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Commonality Vs. Common Ground—What's the Difference?

Unlike common ground, commonality is almost always an achievable goal.

Instead of searching for common ground, I suggest you try to find commonality . Commonality is about getting to a place where opposing parties understand where each other is coming from. Unlike common ground, commonality, is almost always an achievable goal.

All it takes is a little curiosity.

Try to be genuinely interested and curious in the “why” behind your opponent’s point of view. This establishes a level of trust, a true sense of the commonality we share as human beings.

By sowing the seed of trust, curiosity creates opportunities to see value in the other person’s stance. And when conflicting parties trust and can see the value in each other’s positions, the bar to finding a way out of the conflict altogether is significantly lowered.

In an interview for for the American Public Media radio program On Being Frances Kissing, the leader of the Catholics for Choice movement, said:

 “...the hallmark of a civil debate is when you can acknowledge that which is good in the position of the person you disagree with.”

The ABT Rule of Three

The Rule of Three is an Asset-Based Thinking exercise to increase one’s influence through curiosity. I have seen this tool build trust between people, who on the surface seemed miles apart on issues. It is especially useful for leaders tasked with managing resistance to change.

The Rule of Three involves asking the following three questions to the opposing party and really listening to their answers:

  1. Why is this so important to you?
  2. Can you tell me more about why this is so important to you?
  3. Please tell me even more about why your position is so important to you?

The trick here is to not sound like you are cross-examining the person with opposing views. Rather, I am suggesting you inquire with genuine curiosity so you can learn about the person’s deeper values and concerns.

Honor the other person’s values without giving up your own.

Try using the Rule of Three in minor disagreements to develop your curiosity. Let me know how it works out!


Dr. Kathy Cramer  has written seven best-selling books including Change The Way You See Everything, which started the ABT Global Movement. Her latest book, Lead Positive shows leaders how to increase their effectiveness through her revolutionary yet refreshing simple mindset management process, Asset-Based Thinking. Download her Speaker Kit here.

To read more of Kathy’s thought leadership, visit  and   Follow Kathy on Twitter at  @drkathycramer .  

Photo by: Jill Clardy