Common ground (communication technique)

Common ground is the overlap between the positions of parties that may otherwise disagree. "Finding common ground" is a technique people use to facilitate interpersonal relationships. To find common ground between parties, participants must search for signals of recognition, which are often subtle and prone to misunderstanding. Generally, smiles, bland faces, or frowns can be the positive, neutral, or negative signals. When verbal communication is possible, the participants can speak and then listen. Another aspect to establishing common ground is the use of visual cues. According to Gergle et al (2013), visual cues also help establish common ground in that it gives a reference to the speaker as to how much is understood.[1]


In academia, grounding criterion is the standard that communicators must meet for a communication to succeed. Effective communication can be further thought of as having two distinct parts—the presentation phase, in which the information is relayed, and the acceptance phase, in which the receiver acknowledges comprehension of the information.[2]

Historically, the commons in many communities were places available to everyone, such as the village pump, or the sidewalk of a road. Thus, even for those far from home, the sight of someone familiar only from the commons might be comforting to a homesick or lonely traveller. This effect can be seen in many kinship groups. One measure for interpersonal relationships is warmth. Thus discovery of common ground is commonly cause for comfort and additional happiness among the participants, and is one step on the way to respect or perhaps friendship.

However, to some people in small-enough communities, conflict may have occurred between them too often to find common ground, and isolation from each other is the only path toward healing and a healthy relationship. For such people, shunning of the commons is necessary. But if one is forced onto the commons, then a minimal acceptable behavior toward others is necessary when on common ground, as in a truce.

As an example, one technique for anonymous trade between mutually suspicious parties was for the offerers to lay the goods (such as gold) in a clearing (the potential common ground), and then to hide in the forest with the gold in their plain sight, while armed with weapons, in the event of treachery. Thus, offers could be made to traders. The traders, who bore goods (and who were also armed with weapons), would lay the trade goods in the clearing, and take the gold back with them. This was a mechanism for trading between the Moors and the gold miners of Africa over a millennium ago, and also for trade with Sumatra (the isle of gold) and other islands of Southeast Asia. This has some structural similarity to the policy of mutually assured destruction during the Cold War era.

Today, we have the advantage of more highly developed communications techniques, but the basic need for minimizing suspicion and maximizing trust remains with us, worldwide, at a time when polarization is increasing.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Gergle, Darren (2013). "Using Visual Information for Grounding and Awareness in Collaborative Tasks". HCI Journal: 1–43.
  2. ^ Clark, Herbert H.; Brennan, Susan E. (1991). Perspectives on socially shared cognition. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. pp. 129–130.