Whether we’re strangers, acquaintances, close friends, co-workers, family, or lovers, our perception of the quality of the relationship and how secure we expect us to feel in the future is predicated on getting along. These are the things we do in order to have harmonious and friendly relationships with others so that we can be happy and get what we want from life. In other words, it’s how we meet our emotional needs.

We get along with people with whom share common ground. This is the connection we establish with someone or a group of people due to sharing opinions, interests and other seeming similarities. For example, background, attractiveness, personality or life stage, despite our other differences. 

Although we’re all unique and we each have our own needs, fears, beliefs, desires, expectations, feelings, opinions, experiences, motivations, and more, even with what seem like huge differences, we can find common ground. Now granted, in any given relationship, that ground may be flimsy, rocky, temporary, professional, personal, solid and/or expansive. Still, where we stand with people matters

Where we stand with people matters.

When we believe, regardless of how intimately we know that person (and they us), that we have something (or a lot of things) in common, it’s because we feel, even if we don’t have proof, that we share interests, characteristics, outlook, intent or something we perceive to be of value. We like them. We feel that we agree on some (or many) things in the areas where we think it most counts. Or we assume we will in future based on how we’ve gotten on so far or based on what we’ve gleaned or assumed about them.

Over almost two decades of exploring dating and relationships, common ground is the pothole people stumble into again and again. Obviously, we need it to create, forge and sustain intimate relationships, but we’re often too simplistic about it. We prioritise superficial qualities and characteristics—secondary values—and don’t pay enough attention to and value core values. In doing so, we miss the wood for the trees.

How much can we really have in common with someone if the relationship is actually unhealthy or unfulfilling? These are signs of incompatibility.

In being humans, we have a lot of superficial stuff in common with more people than we think.

To create, forge and sustain healthy, intimate, loving relationships and to be fulfilled humans in our own right, though, we need to share core values where it counts. Core values speak for our character as well as our priorities and direction in life. Without shared core values, we don’t have compatibility and we won’t meet our emotional needs.

When you share core values with someone, the relationship is harmonious, stable, healthy and growing. You are able to be more of who you really are.

The funny thing is, when you genuinely get on with people, you don’t have to keep talking about “common ground”. You just get on with things. So, if you’ve talked a lot about common ground, it’s a call to go deeper. It might, in fact, be time to consider what you don’t have in common.

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