Finding Common Ground May Be Easier Than You Think

This election year was an exhausting campaign, which seemingly may have left our country more divided than ever before. It can be difficult to find common ground among people who appear to have fundamental differences. So leave it to a lost golden retriever to show us the way to togetherness!

Someone at Pedigree, the dog food company, had the bright idea to create a video which showed Americans there are things we can all agree on that transcend politics. They sent a young woman with a dog on a leash to campaign rallies, where she asked people to help her find the owner of this “lost” dog she had found. The twist was that this woman wore a Clinton campaign t-shirt as she wandered a Trump rally, and then wore a Trump t-shirt to a Clinton rally.

Far from being angry with her when she approached with her lost dog story, the people waiting in line for these rallies were eager to help. When they noticed she was wearing the t-shirt of the “opposition” they didn’t let it phase them; instead, they said things like, “When it comes to dogs, there’s no political party,” and “I never expected to agree with a Trump supporter on something, but here we are.” One woman said, “…we can all find ground on some things and that’s what we were all just a part of.”

Now granted, the video doesn’t allow us to view the raw footage, so we have to take the makers at their word that reactions to this woman and her “lost dog” were generally positive. And of course this was not a scientific experiment. Regardless, the reactions of these people in the video were genuine and the video makes an important point that is easy for us to lose during these sorts of campaigns.

Elections are divisive because the “us versus them” mentality motivates people towards the cause and out to the polling stations. This adversarial mentality also drives up TV ratings and ad revenue. Pitting parties against each other in a horserace of pundits, polls and scandals makes it easy for us to let our emotions get wrapped up in the experience, and distracts our minds from evaluating the candidates — or their supporters — based on merit and qualifications.

This video shows us is that, deep down, we often have more common interests than we do differences. Most people tend towards kindness, and many of us — no matter what our party affiliation — have the same core motivations for our political decisions as our opposition, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yes, we may disagree on how to go about achieving those things, and often let our emotions get the best of us, but we can agree that, overall, we want our country to move forward, to continue to grow and prosper.

Politics are not an end in themselves, but rather a strategy for getting what we want in life. And just as this “lost dog” video shows, we are often pleasantly surprised to realize that what we want in life is very similar to what others want, even if we disagree on the specific “how.” Regardless of how any of us feel about the outcome of this election, when we can focus on the similarities we all have as Americans and strip away the strategies and tactics of both campaigns, the healing process becomes easier. When we can find this common ground, the negotiation and equal compromise around just how to go about achieving our collective desires becomes smoother and more attainable.

Bringing yourself to a place where you can accept differences standing between you and your friends, family or co-workers can be a powerful tool in any aspect of life. Consider someone in your life whom you have had a strong disagreement with, political or otherwise. Then, instead of pondering where they are wrong and you are right, think about where you are the same, where you have common interests and where you can agree. After this reflection, think back to your disagreement and examine how your perspectives surrounding that subject have changed. By doing this exercise a few times, you may find your negative emotions surrounding the topic have lessened and your point of view expanded.

“It’s when we start working together that the real healing takes place… it’s when we start spilling our sweat, and not our blood.” — David Hume

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