There has been a lot of recent talk about finding common ground. Spurred from the intense divide our country has been facing, common ground is viewed as a way to reconcile differences, build connectivity and friendship, and turn ‘thems’ into ‘us.’ Media outlets, blogs, and news articles have been asking, ‘can we find common ground between the police and the critics, democrats and republicans, religious groups and LGBTQ+?’
I am going to suggest that common ground is not the ground to seek.
What we all need to do is find our higher ground.
Consider higher ground as a metaphor. When you are lost out in the wilderness, one strategy is to get to higher ground. Literally. Climb up a tree or get to the top of a mountain. It provides visibility and perspective. It gives you a sense of where you are.
Imagine your ‘self’ has its own higher ground. This is a place where you have better visibility and perspective. The view is truly the best from the top, and at your higher ground, you have a more informed and expanded view of yourself and that which is around you. Think of your higher ground as the place where your evolved self lives. This self has learned the lessons life has given to it. You know those lessons that you continue to face over and over again?
In yoga, the higher self is the wise self. It is a connection to more universal and shared energy where we have better access to our inner knowledge and understanding. Our higher self is the version of ourselves that we want to become. The real potential of who we are. That higher self exists at higher ground.
Imagine a conflict you have right now. Perhaps it’s with another person, or perhaps you are helping to resolve a conflict with others. Now imagine meeting each other from each of your higher ground. And better yet, imagine everyone involved was coming together from their own higher ground. Conversations would not be driven by ego and self-motivated agendas but rather by a desire to understand each other and find mutual connection. Instead of trying to make each other wrong, from our higher ground, we would look to make the world more right for everyone. Situations could be seen as win-win as opposed to the more common zero-sum outcome where someone has to lose.
Right now our world is in a state where conflict runs rampant and division between people reaches far and wide. Nobody wins in an environment like this. Identities are fragile, and for many, they feel constantly under attack, literally and figuratively. It seems more and more difficult to practice dignity with one another. From our lower-level perspectives, all we see is our own pain. All we feel is our trauma, and we are fighting intensely to protect our place in the world.
There is a way out of this, but it’s not from where we are. It’s not from trying to find (or force) common ground. In fact, it might be the exact opposite. Instead of finding the things about each other that are the same, what if we sought to understand the other’s perspective? What if we really listened to each other? To each other’s thoughts, ideas, fears? What if there was a place where my ideas and thoughts could exist alongside yours? There is such a place, and it’s at our higher ground.
So how do you get to your higher ground, you might wonder?
Seek first to understand
Curiosity is the number one skill we all need to be cultivating right now, and for leaders, it might be the most critical skill for the future of leadership. When we are stuck in judgment we see the worst in each other. We question motives and build resentment. We make each other wrong or bad. From our higher ground, we believe in the best of everyone. We
assume positive intent and so from that higher ground, we are genuinely curious about each other.
The next time you find yourself at odds with someone or stuck in a conflict or disagreement, try this:
- Ask yourself what might this person be feeling in this situation? How can you step into their shoes and practice empathy?
- Accept people for who they are, not who you want or expect them to be.
- Consider how your own feelings might be getting in the way of true understanding.
- Explore where your differences might actually be a place of connection.
- Move from an either/or mentality to a both/and perspective where there is space for us all to exist together.
Forget about being right
Our higher ground doesn’t care about being right. From our higher ground, we seek to get it right. Getting it right requires us to be a learner and prioritize the other over ourselves. Being other-centric over self-centered is so important in a world that is becoming more individualistically isolated and divided. Being right isolates us from others and makes others wrong. Getting it right puts value on connection and opens up a space for empathy and different perspectives. It takes the knowing away from the self and into a process, like the process of connection and understanding.
The next time you find yourself fixated on being right, try this:
- Consider what other sides of the issue are important to see.
- Ask yourself, do I really and completely know that my stance is universally true? (hint: you don’t).
- Explore what you might need to let go of in order to let another perspective in as truth.
- Be willing to hold the fact that there is more than one truth.
Recognize the need to heal
Whether it’s the lingering trauma of the COVID pandemic, the political unrest that has befallen our country, or the social injustice that we are finally unable to ignore, we are a people that need to heal. Our higher ground believes in integral wellness and recognizes the importance of healing. Trauma is trauma, no matter if it’s physical or emotional. In the same way you would care for yourself if you broke your leg or cracked a rib, we need to care for our broken spirits and cracked hearts. When we prioritize healing we take the time to nurture and care, not only for ourselves but for everyone. We begin to value ourselves in a way that will allow us to value others, something our world is in desperate need of right now.
The next time you notice you are forcing yourself through life no matter what the cost, try this
- Slow down. Take a breath. Check-in with yourself and get in touch with how you feel.
- Be willing to acknowledge your emotional state. Honor what’s present-both the positive and the negative.
- Allow yourself to recognize how hard this past year has been. For yourself. For others. For the world.
From our higher ground, we seek higher aspirations. We expect better from ourselves and we believe in the best of others.
Give it a try this week. Get to your higher ground and engage with people from there. If we seek out our higher ground, we will be amazed at what shows up. So find a way to that higher ground, and I’ll meet you there.