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Relationships Daryl Davis has formed with KKK members show how difficult conversations can be fruitful, the authors write.

When progress is gridlocked, more talking can help

Bond and Olsen run Common Ground Committee, a nonpartisan organization that seeks to promote productive public discourse — mainly by hosting forums where prominent figures from each party discuss areas of agreement on a polarizing policy issue.
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Courtesy: Chuck Nacke

"When we get lost in the rhetoric of polarization, we forget that we're all on the same team," argue the authors.

Common ground in politics is possible. It just needs coverage.

Bond and Olsen are co-founders of Common Ground Committee, a nonpartisan organization that seeks to promote productive public discourse.

Turn on any cable news channel and you'll likely hear talk about the divisiveness of our politics, and there are numbers to back that up. Only 38 percent of Americans say the United States is heading in the right direction, and an annual poll tracking discourse shows 93 percent say America has a civility problem. As discouraging as these numbers seem, the tide may be turning.

A recent poll from Georgetown University found that 85 percent of voters want finding common ground to be a main goal of politicians. A survey from Hidden Tribes of America found that 77 percent of Americans believe that the differences between us are not so big that they cannot be bridged.

As the co-founders of Common Ground Committee, we've repeatedly seen this shift first-hand. Whether it's at one of our forums with political leaders or in conversations with family, friends and colleagues, we've found that people actually agree on more than they realize. They just have to engage in the conversation. What's more, people will often share experiences of seeking and finding common ground with those who hold different political beliefs.

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Unfortunately, we rarely get the chance to witness agreement between political leaders from different parties. The media portrays politicians as constant adversaries rather than collaborators. This representation has consequences: Research suggests that negative feelings toward the opposite party's leadership are much stronger than those directed at individuals.

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