We talk about “finding middle ground” when we have to collaborate and communicate to reach an agreed upon plan. This is especially important when cooperating with someone who holds different beliefs from us.
In truth, there is middle ground between you and anyone else you have some kind of relationship with. Middle ground is the space between you. Even more specifically this middle ground is where there is agreement and peace. It’s where you share your common elements.
Maintaining positive middle ground with your partner is important. You maintain it much the way you would actual grounds. You don’t want it to become unkempt carelessly strewn with negative interactions.
During times of conflict, when it seems you are standing in a field of differences, finding your way back to that middle ground together makes it possible for your more difficult conversations to begin to flow more smoothly.
To begin rebuilding your middle ground and connect better you start at the places where you agree. Start where you see things the same before you discuss those differences.
Put those things in this middle space intentionally. Talk about what you can agree on. Talk about what you have in common. The key word here is talk.
Feng Shui the conversations in your relationship. Decorate and place your content carefully.
Decide on one topic to talk about to get you started. I often ask my clients to imagine a coffee table between them and to put on the table what they want to talk about. One puts out something they would like to talk about and so does the other. If they are different then the next step is to decide which they are most interested in and can talk about successfully. Pick whatever’s easiest to get started.
For example the suggestion to, “talk about what we will do around holiday time” is suggested and both agree. This is now the agreed-upon topic.
Begin with this topic talking carefully and slowly. Pay attention to what you put on the coffee table.
Off-topic catastrophizing and ugly memories from the past can creep into the space between you. What happened to the topic of holiday time? It’s buried under all those negative thoughts.
5 tips for staying on topic
Decorate the space with what you agree about. Why? Because this is your middle ground. Care about it. You both need this middle ground to stand on together as a re-beginning. Notice out loud what you both agree on.
- Agree to talk about a topic and stick to it. If the topic is the holiday weekend then begin by taking turns describing what you would like to see happen this weekend. Notice what you agree about. We agree to make it a family time, to do some of our traditions we like and so on.
- Frame this chosen topic with the language of possibilities not problems. Explore the possibilities together on the decided upon topic only. What will it look like? What do you want to do? What would the kids enjoy?
- Stay focused and disciplined. Stay on the decided topic only. Stay in the present unless you are remembering positive times to bring into the present.
- Pay attention to the words you use. Decide not to use words that exaggerate such as Always, Never, or Horrible. Pay attention to your words and use them carefully as if you have only so many to use each day. Your words are precious choose wisely.
- Give each other equal time to talk and then listen. If you need to hold a symbolic talking stick so people don’t interrupt do it. Only talk if you have the symbolic talking stick. The other person listens.
Once you have the foundation of agreement stop and enjoy your success. The rest can be talked about another time.
“Soul Mates” by Flickr user Dr. Wendy Longo is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.