3 Tips to Help Find Common Ground

3 Tips to Help Find Common Ground August 10, 2022

It is difficult to have good conversations today. Sometimes, conversations can be nearly impossible if participants are so committed to their worldview that they cannot look beyond themselves to find common ground. As social media continues to exacerbate the polarization of politics and ideology, conflict—as well as sheer arrogance and dismissal—have become almost expected when engaging with people of different beliefs.

While this is a sad reality, we at Premier recognize the command for Christians to live out their faith, and we seek to inform and equip people to share the Gospel confidently and convincingly in our increasingly secular world. My work is specifically focused on exploring common and contested ground concerning difficult and controversial issues of faith. In doing this, I have found that Christians and non-Christians are not as different as people may initially suspect. If this is true, how, then, can we navigate tough conversations to find areas where we do agree? Consider these three strategies to help open yourself to others and encourage others to open themselves to you.

1. Get out of your echo chamber.

In Jonathan Yates’s landmark book “Fractured,” he tackles a deceptively simple idea: The more we spend time with people unlike ourselves, the more understanding, tolerant and friendly we become. However, one of the predominant issues with our culture is that we only associate with people like us. Yates calls this the “people like me” syndrome. We prefer having an “in” group and an “out” group, and social media profits from the arguments and conversations that exist among these groups. While there is beauty in being different, Yates admits the problem stems from people being distant. To advance the cause of Christ, we must look beyond these groups and get out of our echo chambers.

Proverbs 27:17 declares that “iron sharpens iron,” and I can stand as testament to the edifying and “sharpening” effect that comes from interacting with those who are different. You do not have to agree with people, but it’s critical that you meet with them. I encourage you to follow social media accounts you don’t agree with. Read a book written from a perspective you don’t agree with. Talk with someone you don’t agree with. The key is engagement—and in a civil and compassionate manner. Jesus did this all the time. He constantly stepped over barriers to engage with those who were deemed “dirty” or less “worthy”—those people who were different. In order to find common ground, we must follow his example.

2. Make friends with your enemies.

Making friends starts with listening. Humans are more than just walking intellects; we possess the capacity for a whole mixture of thoughts and emotions. While this is true, we are also guided by biases that stem from our experiences. Think of these biases as a lens through which you view, interact with and interpret the world. When you enter conversations with people, it is valuable to uncover this lens so that you can establish a mutual respect.

People know when they are just being treated as a project. As Christians, we can—and need to—do better than that. We must find the human being behind the issue. We have to connect with them. Besides, only offering someone a proper hearing will allow them to hear you.

3. Stop arguing and start persuading.

Peter 3:15 instructs, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” If we truly desire to share our beliefs with others, gentleness and respect are necessities. How we say things is just as important as the things we say. Don’t assume that merely stating your argument or shouting it louder will make any difference. Real change requires holistic engagement with people. Ultimately, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. That said, our duty as Christians is to make people thirsty. Rather than arguing, our conversations must model community, winsome engagement and utmost love. Through our example, our persuasion is implicit, and many people will naturally crave the gift we have.

I have often seen people win an argument but lose the person. Even if you lose the argument, we should be more concerned with the long view. What impression do people have of Christians? In the end, have we actually demonstrated that Christianity is worth living regardless of its defensibility or truth? Even when there are significant matters at stake, we should never stop being Christlike in the way we engage with God’s children. So continue to engage alongside the Spirit of Christ and His guidance, knowing that it is only through putting on the character of Christ that we can ever truly find common ground.


Justin Brierley is Apologetics Director for Premier Unbelievable? and host of the “Unbelievable?” and  “The Big Conversation” podcast series, the latter of which recently featured Francis Collins and Richard Dawkins debating belief in God.  Passionate about asking the important questions of life and challenging people’s beliefs, Brierley engages in conversations with individuals who don’t always agree. His ultimate goal is to understand and strengthen the Christian apologetic while encouraging others to consider faith in Christ and the Bible. Learn more at www.premierinsight.org.

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