By Jeremy Gorr, JFA Trainng Specialist
One of the most important things we teach people is to find common ground when possible—and it is almost always possible! A great example of the power of finding common ground was a conversation I had with Taylor at the University of North Texas.
Taylor was writing on our free speech board (shown in picture). From what he wrote, it may be hard to imagine that I would have had much common ground with him. It seemed like we had totally different worldviews.
It turned out, however, that finding common ground with him was easy! Our conversation started like this:
Jeremy: Do you think there should be any restrictions on abortion at all?
Taylor: I don’t think it should be used as a form of birth control, but that’s about it.
Jeremy: I don’t think that abortion should be used as a form of birth control either. I agree with you about that! Why do you think abortion should be available for other reasons?
Taylor: If the child is not going to have the quality of life he or she should, it should be up to the parent to figure out what’s best for the child.
Jeremy: I agree that it’s tragic when children don’t have a high quality of life. I also agree that parents generally should have freedom regarding how to raise their children.
Notice how I first found something I could agree with after each statement he made. But also notice that I did not agree with everything he said. Even though I agreed with many of his sentiments, I made sure never to agree with him that abortion should be allowed in the circumstances he raised.
We call this finding “common ground without compromise.” We can find much to agree with and never compromise our position to do so. Finding common ground early in the conversation really opened the door to a thoughtful conversation with Taylor. If I had not shown him that we had so much common ground, he might have assumed I was a “Nazi” (see picture above) and not had much to say to me, much less have wanted to listen to me. Using common ground, I was able to establish that I was an empathetic, caring person just like he was.
It was truly amazing to see how these initial points of common ground opened the door to his coming around to agreeing with me on more substantial matters:
Jeremy: Imagine if there were a two-year-old child that had many of the same problems that you believe create a need for abortion, such as a low quality of life. Could we kill the two-year-old?
Taylor: No. Ideally he could be adopted or something, but you can’t kill him. By that time he’s a human being.
Jeremy: I agree. And if the unborn is also already a human, like that two-year-old, can you see how it would be equally wrong to kill her?
Taylor: I understand your argument that she’s a human and it’s not right to kill her. However, I think if you think about what’s best for her life, it would be better if she didn’t exist at all.
Jeremy: I can understand how you feel it might be better if some children didn’t exist at all. However, the question with abortion is very different. Abortion doesn’t prevent a child from coming into existence; it kills a child that already exists.
Taylor: I agree with that. That makes it much more complicated.
Taylor and I had a 20-minute conversation about the humanity of the unborn, human rights, and the immorality of abortion. He agreed with most of my arguments. As we talked it became clear that he was the type of person who would not change his mind on the spot, but definitely will reflect on the new information he learned. There may be many people that you feel have extremely different worldviews and with whom it is difficult to connect. Common ground “without compromise”* is the key to building a genuine connection and reasoning together on the issue of abortion.