Working every day alongside someone who you don’t necessarily have respect for, or get along with is a challenge. Without a foundation of mutual respect, often everything they say or do can chafe on you personally and professionally. Unfortunately, when we are not making the hiring decisions or in control of the seating arrangements, we may not have a choice in the matter, so we have to find a way to make it work for us.  

For the last several weeks we have been discussing the choice to treat others with respect, even if you don’t necessarily respect them. (See earlier posts here) One practice that can make this process easier is to find common ground. Rather than focusing on what we don’t or can’t agree on, focus instead on what we can agree on. Then we begin building a bridge on that common ground.

Sometimes this is an arduous task and we have to begin quite broadly. Maybe with something like:

Can we agree that we both want to keep our jobs?” Yes? Good. What else can we agree upon?

Can we agree that we want the company to be successful because that will allow us to keep our jobs?” Yes? Good. What else can we agree upon?

Can we agree that we both desire a productive and stress-free working environment?” Yes? Great! Keep going. What else can we agree upon?

Continue with this process of common-ground-bridge-building as long as possible to create a foundation that you can work together on.

It’s important to note, that sometimes we can come to the end of the common ground, and the bridge hasn’t met in the middle. That’s when we agree to disagree and treat each other with respect anyway. Unfortunately, America has forgotten how to agree to disagree in a respectful manner, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do, and the best way to continue working productively together.

Finding common ground is not a quick fix solution, but it is one that can create a lasting foundation upon which two people of differing opinions and principles can work together productively.