The Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue model is a simple and effective framework that can help guide our approach to the complex challenge of engaging in dialogue where deep discussion is taking place around potentially sensitive topics. It helps us organize our understandings of the diverse awarenesses, skills, and methods we can use to support our efforts to remain mindful and connected with our dialogue partners, ourselves, and our intentions during challenging interactions.
A Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue practice is anyone’s personal, effective practice of holding mindful dialogue that resonates with this model and holds and supports intentions to heal relationships, grow connection and understanding across differences, and to expand our circles of compassion. This framework naturally encourages the use of other methods, approaches, and practices- ancient and new- that support connection, understanding, healing, and growth. Non-Violent Communication (NVC), Deep Listening, “Process Work”, Active Peace, and any effective approach we connect with can be called upon to support us in our Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue practice.
Why Practice Common Ground Regenerative Dialogues?
The root intention of practicing a Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue is to help us improve our skills of cultivating connection and understanding across difference.
We use this practice to:
· Heal connections with people who are important to us, but with whom we find it challenging to connect
· Grow new connections, including with people with whom we have great difficulty interacting
· Deepen connections with those to whom we already feel very connected
· Help heal connections between groups in our communities
· Serve as an example for others
We recognize that among the many challenges of this practice is learning to restrain and redirect our desires to persuade others into some particular way of thinking or feeling. In fact, we actively work to transform these desires into a different desire to simply better communicate and understand one another.
Not only are there other contexts that are more appropriate for persuasion, but we also believe that, over time, out of this non-persuasive, regenerative process generally grows more shared and more accurate understandings within and between communities than could form from determined efforts of individuals working to persuade one another.
Cultivating connection and understanding across difference is a skillset that must be practiced. Like most every skillset, mastery takes thousands of hours, one can always improve, and becoming competent is accessible to anyone with the desire and the will to practice. We support each other’s ongoing development of these skills in active communities of practice, where we respect our different levels of abilities, and we also work to adapt this practice into our day-to-day lives and all of our interactions. We lead others only by sharing ourselves and embodying our own practice.
Those of us who are consistent in our Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue practice are serving as agents of connection supporting the well-being and the healthy evolution of our diverse human cultures on Earth.
We believe that here at the beginning of the 21st century, challenges of human civilization are increasing rapidly and that growing more of these skills and communities of practice is absolutely necessary in order to learn to collaborate and organize well enough to co-create a desirable future for ourselves and for our world.
We believe require great and rapid evolution in most of our human cultures in our collective, collaborative abilities of:
This applies to each of us on an individual level and to all of our various groups of different sizes and at different scales, from families and communities to organizations and societies. Educating large numbers of individuals is not enough. We must also ensure that our groups are learning, as groups.
There are growing numbers of us organizing in real-world, as well as on-line, groups and regularly practicing mindfulness and connection in challenging conversations with others of strikingly different worldviews and experiences. The Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue model offers support for us to consciously evolving these abilities, individually and collectively.
Of course, there are many contexts in which it is appropriate, wise, or necessary to shift the focus away from areas of potential conflict. Sometimes even the most basic and innocent discussion that involves sharp differences can evoke mistrust, disconnection, fear, emotional traumas, defensiveness, or otherwise cause general ‘social inflammation’. Respect for and awareness of our own and each other’s individual sensitivities and boundaries in any given moment is of crucial importance in this practice. The potentially dangerous challenge of growing connection and understanding across sharp differences should not be underestimated, and neither should the deep importance of rising to this challenge as quickly and effectively as possible. Those of us who share any intention to serve as agents of connection in these challenging times must practice managing this risk effectively, by seeking an appropriate balance of courage and caution.
We invite you- as a conscious member of 21st century Earth- to bring this practice into your usual interactions, to use this practice to grow new kinds of interactions, and to help gather groups to practice these skillsets together. Join other groups in person and online. Start a group in your community. We are growing a living network of communities of practice, learning to grow regenerative cultures all over our planet.
The Difference of Common Ground
is the Common Ground of Difference…
The Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue practice helps us to nurture the common ground that exists amongst any set of individuals, while simultaneously celebrating the great value of differences and the importance of diversity. Cultivating this synergy can be challenging, and the yields are abundant.
Our minds are trained to find differences. That is an integral feature of how they function. It’s important to notice that there are always more differences to find, and there is always more common ground to find, as well… ALWAYS. An agent of connection is mindful of what her mind is looking out for.
Presumably, all of us reading this are human and live on Earth. Certainly, we are all Cosmic Beings of one form or another. Whatever one’s worldview, religion, philosophy, or spirituality; it seems that we should all be able to agree that we can find some kind of fundamental common ground, somewhere. Many of us may even see a fundamental common ground at the source of all things- whatever our understanding of that may be.
We each understand and connect to our own personal concepts of a fundamental common ground through labels and distinct perceptions that resonate with us. There is an entire ecosystem of various labels and ideas that we can use to conceptualize and connect to our Universal Common Ground in our own way; such as “God”, “Creation”, “Source”, “The Cosmos”, “The Unified Field”, the “Common Ground of Being”, the “Sacred Common Ground”, and innumerous others. Whatever labels we prefer, whatever our perceptions, and whatever the true nature of it all, we certainly seem to all be a part of whatever it all is together.
Do you agree?
At Common Ground Networks we believe that there is a such thing as an objective, ultimate ‘Truth’, however dynamic and self-creating this Truth might be. We believe that we each have limitations and flaws in our perceptions of this Truth, and that it is a valuable pursuit to continuously attempt to perceive Truth with ever-greater clarity. Even though we fully acknowledge that we could never wrap our intellects around all of Truth.
We believe that we each embody unique and valuable aspects of the Human and Cosmic experience that are worthy of sharing and learning from in pursuit of ever-better sense-making and meaning-making. We can’t appreciate the unique and valuable contributions another holds if we don’t make space to listen, and actively seek out their valuable contributions. An agent of connection practices humbly acknowledging our limitations and setting intentions to seek out and identify common ground with others.
Of course, mapping out the boundaries of the common ground is logically equivalent to mapping out the boundaries of our differences. Psychologically, however, these are very distinct approaches. By focusing on mapping the common ground, we can better nurture our connection with one another while we work on more clearly understanding our differences, and better understanding each other.
Connection can be supported throughout a deep, difficult, or sensitive dialogue by consistently acknowledging the common ground. It’s not enough just to have common ground, it must also be mutually acknowledged, explicitly and clearly.
A regenerative dialogue requires willing, able, and active participants on both sides of a sharing process. The simple act of naming these two sides of sharing- and remaining mindful of them- is another valuable tool to help us recognize and manage our contributions to a dialogue.
In the Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue model, there are two modes in which an individual can be to contribute to a dialogue:
The way one listens and holds space for others when in a receptive mode is at least as important a contribution to the dialogue as the way one expresses oneself when in an expressive mode. In either mode, regenerative ways to contribute to the dialogue in that mode will always be changing along with contextual factors, including the “phase” of the dialogue, which is explained later on in this document.
Being dedicated to mindful and heartfelt listening is one of the most influential factors of one’s regenerative dialogue practice, and it can be surprisingly challenging to maintain deep listening consistently. The ability only grows with practice.
Quite often, we find ourselves wishing our partners were better listeners. Perhaps counter-intuitively, the best way to influence our partners to be better listeners for us is to first become better listeners for them. An agent of connection is ready, willing, and able to first hold the space in a receptive mode and then to acknowledge the common ground before acting on the desire to express where there may be differences.
There is a rapidly growing ecosystem of support in these areas. "Deep Listening", "Empathic Listening", "Process Work", “Active Peace”, many others, and Mindfulness practices, in general.
A Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue is grounded in mindfulness.
We practice remaining present with ourselves, with our dialogue partners, and with the dialogue itself. Before engaging in a regenerative dialogue, we check in with ourselves. We connect with our breath and our bodies, and we check in with our hearts. We practice recognizing our inner states, and appreciating our limitations. We are very cautious not to enter into deep dialogue if we are not in a space to support it. We check in with ourselves consistently, especially anytime we shift modes.
Connection can be supported by recognizing that each mode, in fact, involves two-way communication.
In an expressive mode, it is necessary to be receiving feedback, verbal or nonverbal, to ensure as much as possible that the partners in their receptive modes are receiving what is being expressed in a way it is intended to be received.
In a receptive mode, it is necessary to help provide that feedback, whether verbally or nonverbally.
Common Ground Acknowledgement
When practicing a Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue we are consistently and clearly acknowledging the common ground throughout the dialogue.
This is a part of providing feedback as a dialogue partner in a receptive mode, and it should be thought of as a skillful way to shift from a receptive mode into an expressive mode.
As a general guideline:
State what was heard and acknowledge explicitly and clearly where the common ground is in that before entering an expressive mode to describe any additions or differences you wish to communicate.
It can be easy to see and to discuss how important it is to communicate where we relate with our dialogue partners before we begin explaining where we differ; but, actually maintaining high consistency with this can be surprisingly challenging. With practice this can become a habit that can contribute enormously to our success as an agent of connection.
· What modes are my dialogue partners in right now, and what do their mode histories look like?
· What mode should I be in right now, and what does my mode history look like?
Our interactions grow out of our intentions, so the root of practicing a Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue is cultivating the common ground amongst our intentions.
There are many distinct intentions, connected to different desires and needs, that motivate us to engage in dialogue. Each participant in a dialogue usually comes into a dialogue with one or two general intentions; but we can hold many different intentions at the same time, and our intentions can change drastically from moment to moment within a dialogue.
As we begin a dialogue, we try to identify and highlight the various intentions present within us and within our dialogue partners. From there, we can begin to find common ground amongst our intentions and work to better support our various desires and needs together. We also work to keep ourselves connected with the root intention of the Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue Model: to improve our skills of cultivating connection and understanding across difference.
As thinking beings, we often aren’t fully conscious of much of our deeper motives and intentions underneath our desires, including our desires to engage in dialogue with others. In a Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue, we practice noticing the various needs and intentions as they arise in ourselves and try to better understand the needs and intentions of our dialogue partners as they arise in them. Only then can we expect to be able to truly align our intentions and support each other in a regenerative dialogue.
Many of our discussions that grow seemingly irreparably dissonant do so because some or all of us involved simply have different motivations for engaging in discussion, and we may never fully realize this.
For example, Alice and Bob engage in a discussion. Alice wishes to share a story with Bob and receive empathy and emotional support from Bob for her experience. Bob hears her story and wishes to receive curious and grateful attention for sharing his relevant process of intellectual analysis and helpful advice. Without awareness of these differing intentions, this could lead to a highly unsatisfying interaction (which is indicative of lack of connection), or worse. When we begin looking for it, we find that we are frequently engaged in discussion with people while our intentions are misaligned. In this context, connection and understanding struggle to develop, and there is risk of conflict setting in.
GENERAL INTENTION QUESTIONS:
· What might my partners and I want to get out of participating in this dialogue?
· What needs and expectations might my partners and I be holding?
The Seven Regenerative "Phases"
A “phase” in the Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue model is a way to characterize the momentary expression of the nature of an interaction. A phase is mostly described by some of the most prominent underlying intentions of the participants of a dialogue. Some general dynamics between partners may play a role in characterizing a phase, as well.
The Seven Regenerative Phases of Dialogue in the Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue model represent one way of labeling, categorizing, and ordering some of the most general, common, and influential intentions that may be underlying a dialogue as it expresses itself, regeneratively, in a particular moment.
For a dialogue to be in a regenerative phase, the intentions must be largely aligned among all the participants.
In a healthy, regenerative dialogue the actual phase that the dialogue is in, in any given moment, will be some unique expression of some combination of these seven basic intentions, and/or others. Although this is not an exhaustive list and there are countless other ways to attempt to label and categorize our most basic intentions moving us to engage dialogue, we find these seven phases of dialogue to be a highly effective and relatively simple way of navigating the complexity.
Detailed descriptions and guidelines for each regenerative phase are outlined later this document.
Experience Dialogue partners sharing their experiences.
Perspective Dialogue partners sharing their intellectual and conceptual orientations: ideas, beliefs, and worldviews, etc.
Empathy Dialogue partners sharing reflections, feelings, and emotions and holding space, witnessing, and empathizing with each other.
Values Dialogue partners identifying in themselves and others, and sharing: what values are appreciated, how they are prioritized, and which lie at the root of particular perceptions and opinions that have grown in us.
Self-Examination Dialogue partners sharing some of their own self-examination process with each other.
Common Ground Mapping Dialogue partners actively and explicitly outlining their common ground together. This process draws from the common ground acknowledgement that should be occurring throughout the dialogue.
Gratitude Dialogue partners actively sharing gratitude for each other, for the interaction, and for All Things, the Sacred Common Ground.
It is a valuable tool, in itself, to name, categorize, and order these phases. This order of succession of phases is derived not only from the fact that some phases help prepare the ground for other phases, but also from certain trends about how our minds and hearts tend to process things.
The Regenerative Phases, along with their order of succession, can help us think about how to navigate an entire dialogue, as described here; but this “map” can also guide us in how to contribute more skillfully with a particular response in the dialogue. This is to say that a contribution that contains elements from many or all of these phases, and flows through a similar kind of succession can often be a much more skillful and whole response.
However useful this model of succession is, real world dialogues will flow in and out, back and forth, and in-between the various phases in complex patterns, for complex reasons. We keep this order in mind, and allow the dialogue to flow and evolve organically.
We learn to gently guide interactions towards this succession of phases, without too much disruption to the natural flow of the discussion. We avoid forcing our partners into any particular format or practice. We can share our preferences and experiences and our personal practice, and we can adapt our contributions in response to our partners’ practices. Forcing is rarely ever regenerative.
Guiding the flow of a regenerative dialogue is generally achieved through leading by example, and asking appropriate questions of our dialogue partners.
· What phase is the dialogue in right now, and what does the phase history look like?
· What phases might benefit the dialogue to receive more focus, time, or energy?
Regenerative Phase Descriptions and Guidelines
Regenerative contributions, in any phase, most often begin with common ground acknowledgement. As a general guideline, before shifting from a receptive to an expressive mode, it is important to summarize what was being received in the receptive mode, emphasizing where the common ground is there. This is considered part of the receptive mode, because this common ground acknowledgement provides important feedback to the person expressing.
When the common ground is sufficiently acknowledged by the receiver, this makes it easier for the person expressing to shift into their next receptive mode. It can also be vital in helping them follow more complex responses, with greater understanding and less defensiveness, once the receiver does shift modes and expresses differences or additions to what was received.
In this way, “mapping” out the common ground is actually an ongoing process throughout the entire dialogue, and is a main emphasis of the entire Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue model. The 6th phase of the model, “Common Ground Mapping”, is actually just an active and focused re-capping and revising of the common ground acknowledgement that should be occurring consistently throughout any Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue.
Dialogue partners sharing their experiences with each other.
This can be an optimal phase to begin interactions, as it is personal, connecting, and often easier to digest than other phases.
The intentions here are generally to make a time and space for storytelling. Sharing our stories with each other is a primal human bonding activity. It enhances connection, and can help nurture greater understanding for more abstract thoughts and ideas being shared later on, as these are often deceptively rooted in some of our direct experiences and our narratives.
Expressive Mode Guidelines:
· Share real world, true experiences
· Notice and acknowledge the difference between how you are telling the story, and what could be captured on a video camera
· The more direct the experience being shared, the more likely it is to lead to stronger connection
· Verbalize, if appropriate, where you notice or expect there might be common ground
Receptive Mode Guidelines:
· Remain mindful and present
· Hold space to receive the story
· Follow the story
· Empathize; imagine what it would be like to be living out this story, seeing it from that perspective, and feeling it with that heart
· Notice and acknowledge the difference between how the story is being told, and what might have been captured on a video camera
· Verbalize, if it can be done without being disruptive, where you notice common ground
Dialogue partners sharing their intellectual and conceptual orientations: ideas, beliefs, and worldviews, etc.
This is a time and space for better understanding how each other’s minds make sense of our experiences and the world around us. In general, whenever our more abstract and philosophical organizing thought patterns feel resonant between dialogue partners, connection naturally tends to be enhanced; and as these thought patterns feel more foreign between dialogue partners, connection naturally tends to decline.
An agent of connection practices cultivating connection in the company of foreign thought patterns. Often, this may require growing connection in other phases first. If it seems like there is not sufficient connection in perspective sharing, and especially if dissonance begins to cause inflammation, it may be beneficial to re-establish or strengthen connection in another phase before continuing in this phase.
Words are Weird
*Always be sure to clarify and agree on the use of terms.
It is especially important when sharing abstract thoughts that dialogue partners are aware of how one another tend to use terminology. Extremely often, what seems like dissonant perspectives are actually simply the result of miscommunication. Language is subjective. Words are just symbols. Meanings change from culture to culture, mind to mind, and even moment to moment. An agent of connection is mindfully looking out for where the dialogue may benefit by clarifying word use. Be mindful especially of those words that are known to tend to be trigger words or scare words in some circles.
Ask what someone means when they use a word that could be ambiguous in context. Be flexible with your use of terminology. Focus on the meaning underneath words. Make agreements about how words will be used in your shared conversation. Highly effective perception sharings might, surprisingly enough, spend a vast majority of the time on clarifying language. We must have a common ground of terminology before we can have a regenerative discourse, and many deep topics must be probed through complicated language.
Expressive Mode Guidelines:
· Share your own perspectives, perceptions, beliefs, understandings, trusted facts, assumptions, worldviews, etc.
· Share your various perspectives of Truth with humility, for the purpose of enabling others to better understand your perspective… NOT for the purpose of delivering them Truth
· Use phrasing like “I believe that…” “It seems to me…” My understanding is…”
· Begin, whenever possible, by verbalizing where you notice common ground.
· Do your best to ensure that your partners understand the words you use, and the way you use them; If there’s resistance to using a word in a particular way, try to substitute the word with your best attempt at a concise definition that resonates with you.
· Verbalize where you notice common ground
Receptive Mode Guidelines:
· Active listening; It takes effort to decipher and understand another’s abstract thoughts
· Do your best to follow along. Notice when you become distracted and bring your focus back to understanding your dialogue partner’s thoughts
· If you feel uncertain about your partner’s intended meanings, or if you miss something, interrupt politely and ask questions.
· Be sure to ask what a word means to your partner, if you feel there may be room for misunderstanding
· Make note of where you notice common ground and verbalize when appropriate
Dialogue partners sharing reflections, feelings, and emotions and holding space, witnessing, and empathizing with each other.
This is a time and space for sharing our inner, emotional lives with each other with an intention of taking turns being witnessed. Here, we express- and own- our inner responses clearly, authentically, and in a manner that enhances connection and understanding; and we hold space for others to do so, and empathize with them. It is a great gift to bear witness to glimpses of another person’s inner being and hold the space for them with connection and support.
An agent of connection must have their own practice of inner work outside of these dialogues in order to grow truly skillful at connecting and understanding across differences. This is especially noticeable when it comes to empathic sharing. Before we are able to share empathically, we must have a practice being present and mindful, grounding into our own bodies and hearts. Here, we notice the feelings and emotions that arise and the context in which they arise, and we allow them to express themselves in healthy ways.
We all have feelings and emotional responses that arise in us while expressing ourselves and while receiving others’ expressions. When discussing sensitive topics across differences, we should expect that at some point in the discussion, simply sharing how we feel about something can trigger a sharp emotional reaction in a dialogue partner. And we should expect that a partner simply sharing how they feel about something can trigger a sharp emotional response in us.
If we are careful and skillful, we can express what our internal responses are like to our own and to others’ experiences, perspectives, understandings, beliefs, etc, without eliciting too much resistance in our partners. To maintain connection, we embrace the challenge of expressing our feelings and emotions to our partners in ways that minimize the tendency to trigger their emotional defenses. The better we know our partners, the more skillful we can be.
As agents of connection, we embrace the challenge of being able to hold space to receive and witness their feelings and emotions without becoming defensive ourselves. When we are in a reception mode here, we are holding space to hear and witness others. It is not our role at this time to do anything: to fix things, offer advice, or make any corrections. It is our role here, in this moment, simply to witness and support. We expect that feelings of anger, mistrust, disappointment, pain, will be a part of what people share. We work to grow our ability to stay grounded while we allow others to express uncomfortable emotions, even if those emotions are directed at us. If we are skillful at holding balanced dialogues, we will soon enough create an appropriate time and space to share our understandings and experiences, or whatever responses we feel the need to express. But we must be able to first share the gift of bearing witness to our partners’ experiences. This is potentially the most challenging part of our practice, and the most likely part to make the difference between a regenerative interaction and a disastrous conflict.
As we steadily grow our abilities to stay grounded in our intentions to connect with one another and understand each other throughout our emotional waves, our Common Ground Regenerative Dialogue practice blossoms.
The more we grow these abilities, the more connection we yield. As agents of connection, our practice grows ever stronger anchoring us in ever more steady hearts, enabling us to absorb ever stronger emotional shock waves, and empowering us to create a stable container that can gently nurture the seedlings of this practice in others around us.