Finding Common Ground
“It’s good to find common ground with people. When you find common ground and you see things from other people’s perspective, you can have a voice in their lives, you can have an influence.”
I truly believe that now more than ever in our country we can all agree that there is a divide between people like never before. To notice this divide you only need to spend five minutes watching the news or a few scrolls on social media and it can easily be found. From this Wedgworth seminar, one of the most repeated statements I heard was to “find your common ground.”
The need to find common ground before the conversation even begins is one of the most important things that we can do to be a better advocate for our industries and livelihoods. Finding something in common with the “opponent” is the best way to be able to have an open conversation about each other’s differing viewpoints while still actually listening to them.
The perfect example that I took away for finding the common ground was between Ms. Sue Colson, Cedar Key Vice Mayor and the Mayor of Cedar Key, Heath Davis. Mayor Davis said that he and Ms. Colson disagree on just about everything that you can imagine but they both have the same common ground of their love for their community and for Cedar Key. It allows them to overcome their difference and get their job done for their community. Without finding common ground their differences in opinions could easily tear their community apart and nothing would be able to be accomplished.
Common ground in their community has allowed Cedar Key to be completely septic free to ensure the safety of the water quality. This action was actually taken over 20 years ago because many knew the importance that clean water was going to have for the survival of the clamming industry that is so vital for Cedar Key. At the time, even 20 years ago there was great differing of opinions but they knew for the survival of their clamming industry they needed to take steps to protect it and the protection of the clamming industry was the common ground.
Dr. Michael Lauzardo, the Director of UF Health’s Screen, Test, and Protect initiative in the Division of Infection Diseases and Global Medicine spoke about the impacts that COVID-19 has had on the University of Florida Campus and the decisions that he has had to make as a leader while in his position. He explained that he has been making tough decisions that sometimes have not been very popular. Many of those in disagreement let him know that they were extremely unhappy with his decisions. He went on to explain that he could have just easily deleted those emails and phone calls from irate parents and students and let it smolder. But instead he had to see it from their perspective: sending an 18-year-old off to a University for the first time during a health pandemic. This was the way that he found his common ground to get across the line. Taking a pause to put himself in their shoes and understand where and why they have a differing opinion. To respond to those concerned parents and students and explain why he made the decisions that he did.
He explained that it was important to him to find the common ground to be able to have the conversation. The differing of sides along with the fact that “fear and anxiety don’t like reasoning” was important for him to try and understand. He explained it best by stating that people can get all the information they want but it is the knowledge and wisdom to interpret that information. Finding the common ground to help someone gain the wisdom and interpret the information to understand it and to use it is the only way that the influence can happen.
I believe that in order for us to become better advocates for ourselves, families, business, and the industries we represent now it is more important than ever to find that common ground. Whether it be with the neighbor across the street with an opposing political sign or the activist who shows up to every community meeting speaking out against agriculture. Finding the common ground that we have with our opponent is the only way we will hopefully be successful in having a positive impact in their lives and educating them about the importance of our industry. Through the common ground we can hopefully have a positive influence.