Seeking Common Ground
Finding common ground quickly establishes rapport. Aristotle (350 BC) wrote, “We like those who resemble us, and are engaged in the same pursuits. . . . We like those who desire the same things as we [do].” Additionally, people beginning conversations with strangers tend to assume that the stranger shares similar beliefs and attitudes, thus making rapport building an easier task. Commonalities connect one person with another. Clothing, tattoos, office artifacts, trinkets in the home, or even bumper stickers can reveal common topics of conversation. Identifying a favorite football team, military service affiliations, and other organizational memberships also facilitate finding common ground. People can seek common ground in three ways:
Talking about shared experiences, interests, hobbies, jobs, or any number of other common topics enhances the rapport building process.
Person: I started collecting (insert the same item the person you are talking to collects). Tell me about your collection.
Experiences shared across time such as attendance at the same school, military experience, or living in the same geographical region enhance the rapport building process.
I was in the army in the mid-1990s. It sure must have been different from the time when you eree in the military.
A vicarious experience occurs when you feel the same emotions as a person who engaged in a lifestyle or activity, but you, yourself, have not personally engaged in that lifestyle or activity. People can use vicarious experiences to establish common ground when they have little in common with the other person. This is a favorite technique for sales people to use because they can find common ground with customers, but they don’t have to know anything about the customer’s occupation because the sales person is talking about someone else status, skills, or abilities.
Car Sales Person: Hi, what do you do for a living?
Customer: I’m a baker.
Car Sales Person: Really, my father was a baker.
The car sales person doesn’t have to know anything about being a baker because he is not nor was not a baker, his father was. The sales person gains common ground and builds rapport no matter what occupation the customer is engaged.