Can We at Least Agree on That? Finding Common Ground by Personality Type
“Common ground” is an often-used term, but an under-appreciated concept. Many people make passionate judgments against others and groups they do not agree with. Blame for certain groups is also a key element of political discourse. But while highlighting differences is an effective way to generate scapegoats or raise enthusiasm and zeal in a group, it tends to deepen divisions among people.
Emphasizing commonality does the opposite: it helps people step into the shoes of others and understand their perspective. Realizing common motivations between ourselves and others creates a sense of cooperation because we tend to see others as assets working toward a common goal, instead of hindrances from our own goals.
To explore which personality types are more likely to emphasize exploring commonality over disagreement, we asked if our community agreed or disagreed with the statement “In a discussion, you try to point out the common ground between perspectives.” Most people naturally seek common ground when stepping into a mediator role. It is a social world, and people often find that when they spend their time highlighting divisions between themselves and others, it’s only a matter of time before they demonstrate that they just don’t fit with anyone. Few are willing to embrace that isolation completely.
Diplomats (87% agreeing)
Diplomats showed the most agreement of any Role on this topic. This response seems right on target for socially adept Diplomats, who typically excel at interaction and engagement with other people. Techniques to create harmony and reduce discord among people come naturally to Diplomats. Discussing common ground can be a way for Diplomats to bring people together, and their most rewarding experiences stem from a sense of united purpose.
A solid majority of Analysts agreed. While majority agreement was the norm for this statement, Analysts gave the second-highest response of any Role, which may sound out of character for them. It makes sense, though, if we consider the highly creative and driven natures of Analysts – they are likely to understand and use any effective arguing method. Common ground can sway people’s logic, making it an effective tool in debates or conversational resolution.
More than three-quarters of Sentinels (77%) agreed that they try to find common ground, but here we see some discord within the Role itself, so we must examine the responses of different types of Sentinels. Logisticians (ISTJ) agreed with the statement the second-least of any personality type, at 63% overall, and 73% of Executives (ESTJ) agreed. Meanwhile, 79% of Defenders (ISFJ) and 83% of Consuls (ESFJ) agreed, representing the higher end of the Sentinels’ response. Here we start to see the correlation of specific traits, but more on that later.
We might consider that the lower response of the Logisticians relates to their logical and factual nature. People with this personality type may place themselves more in the role of a truthful communicator and less of a sensitive mediator. In other words, Logisticians might be more inclined to make sure that everyone understands the facts, and less concerned with making sure that everyone feels good about those facts. Executives, Defenders, and Consuls agreed more, which is right in line with these types’ general people skills and concerned natures.
Like the Sentinels, we see some variance within this Role. Virtuosos (ISTP) agreed the least out of any personality type (62%), and Entrepreneurs (ESTP) were third-lowest (67%). 76% of Adventurers (ISFP) agreed, as did 80% of Entertainers (ESFP), which brings the average for Explorers up a little.
Virtuosos and Entrepreneurs tend to be passionately focused on projects of their own, and might have less available attention (or inclination) to act as a mediator in their discussions. They are more likely to ignore a dissenting opinion than to argue it. Likewise, they may be less concerned with gently convincing people of their own opinion, and more likely to prove it through action.
Aside from a small increase in agreement from the Extraverted Strategies (People Mastery and Social Engagement), the Strategies showed little variance. This flatness is itself an unusual result, given that the statement, “In a discussion, you try to point out the common ground between perspectives,” focuses so clearly on how respondents approach social interaction, a key behavior governed by the Mind and Identity aspects.
Of particular interest is the similar rates of agreement between Assertive and Turbulent types. One might think that a Turbulent personality type would be more likely to find common ground, if only in a bid to protect themselves from the stress of disagreement. But that’s assuming they make it far enough into a debate to have the chance – every research statement we’ve explored that involves avoiding conflict and disagreement has showed higher agreement from Turbulent types.
Assertive personality types may be a little less inclined to seek out that common ground, comfortable as they are with themselves, but more willing to get far enough into a debate to do so, and less sensitive about the appearance of being wrong once they get there. This balances out the overall responses in the Identity aspect almost perfectly.
Let’s take a more detailed look at specific traits and types’ responses to the statement to get a better understanding of how this all comes together:
Traits and Notable Type Examples
Setting aside the fact that agreement was universally the majority response, we examine the relative differences between the different personality types and traits here. Specifically, we see more agreement from Extraverted, Feeling, and Intuitive types. Let’s discuss how these traits might influence people’s responses, using the personality types whose responses stand out statistically as examples.
Protagonists (ENFJ) agreed the most overall (88%), and they have all the traits associated with agreement on this topic. An Extraverted personality type might naturally have a greater tendency to engage in social harmonizing and conflict resolution than an Introverted type, as they are more group-oriented.
Protagonists and other Feeling types also tend to have a deep understanding of people on an emotional level. This empathy allows Feeling personalities to deftly create emotional connections with others, and may motivate them to enter a mediator role in a conversation. Rather than an intellectual exercise, it may be a rewarding natural impulse to engage people and guide them toward cohesion.
Intuitive types, whether Protagonist or Logician (INTP) (76%) excel at thinking outside their own personal experiences, and this mindset could make them skilled at juggling the perspectives of multiple parties to bring them together.
In the case of Virtuosos, who agreed the least of any personality type (62%), we see all the traits that correlate to less agreement on this topic. That said, a majority of Virtuosos still agreed, so it may be reasonable to assume that it is less about ability and more about inclination. Introverted people, like Virtuosos might feel less motivated to invest their energy in social interactions involving disparity of perspective. While they have the understanding and ability, they may not find it as rewarding to bridge the disparate positions of others.
Virtuosos possess the Thinking trait, which may reduce their need to achieve emotional harmony. They might even logically conclude that there can be benefits to differing points of view, and not see a need to reconcile them to begin with! “Live and let live” often works if the differences are not acrimonious and the people involved are respectful.
The Observant trait, core to the Virtuoso personality type, also related to less agreement with the statement. Unlike Intuitive types, who can all too easily immerse themselves in other’s ideas and perspectives at the expense of their own, Observant types rely on the foundation of their own experience and viewpoint. This more grounded focus makes it easier to stick to their own thoughts and tasks, but harder to see the perspective of another person well enough to find that common ground.
Statistical low points aside, we can see that the majority of respondents in all categories reported using common ground to foster agreement and harmony. If some personality types agreed less, it does not necessarily mean that they do not value agreement and cooperation – maybe they are more comfortable with duality, or simply less inclined to conversational interactions overall. They may also have other preferred methods of bridging divergent perspectives.
What about you? Have you used common ground to bring other people together? Has finding common ground with an adversary benefited you? Share your experience in the comments!