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Imperator Majora

A Commodian Wit - Common Ground

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I delay a post on education again to discuss a fairly universal, but also universally difficult concept, the Common Ground. Why do I delay? Minutes ago, I walked into a drama that was entirely caused by one party lacking the 'common sense' the other party held. "But Commodus, what's special about someone not having common sense?"

Well, see, common sense is only as common as your exposure to the sense, and in this drama, it was a delightfully simple concept that was the source of name calling, high emotions and a lack of conclusion and ultimate understanding. All things you will find anywhere between drama between the detached boomer telling the reckless millennial what to do, to every political discussion bar a few that takes place on Total War Center. But I glomped on this example because I was distinctly exposed to both sides. If you're not privy to the subject, this may be difficult to grasp, but bear with me.

In roleplaying, between forums, IRC chats, discord and so on, there's two ways to approach one matter of how to post.

One, multiple roleplays happen in the same outlet (same thread, same channel, whatever). Many communities do this, especially on forums where multiple different interactions are happening at once. If it gets confusing, an @mention system is often employed to clarify who talks to who. In places where it's not expedient to make an entirely new channel or forum thread, or cases where people are simply accustomed to the overlap, this is the default. It is common sense to do it in one container, so to speak.

Two, each roleplay or scene occurs in a different outlet (two scenes in two channels as compared to the above where it is all in one). The organization benefits are clear - where multiple rooms can be easily made, it is expedient to have each scene done in its own room to avoid overlap or crowding, to avoid sifting through pings and messages to find who you're dealing with. Many communities on chat platforms and even forums do this, particularly in cases where a platform is versatile enough to offer multiple (perhaps temporary) rooms, especially if bouncing between them is easy. This is especially common on discord and IRC chats where there may be 'common' rooms doing it one way, but this way for anything more private. It is common sense to split up containers for organizational purposes.

In the example above, where someone was primarily exposed to One and then attempted to make an overlap in a Two community, administrators for the Two rebuked the One rather strongly, telling them rather aggressively that not interrupting the roleplay is 'common sense' despite Two attempting to start something in a different time than what was going on; simply using the appropriate location to start something different, surely fair on a server that makes all of its subject divisions exclusively by location. Multiple things can surely happen in one area, especially if the area is as broadly named as, say, Paris. Yet it is the common sense in a dedicated Two community to, say, make another room for the same area if two scenes are conducted in it.

This cultural divide was not acknowledged and instead was the catalyst for an argument between established staff doing what they always do a user doing what they always do, both sets being firmly exposed to how they do it and the type of community overlapping enough that it wasn't clear that there was such a distinction in the eyes of a user from case Two. After all, the difference wasn't in the rules. The rebuked party was insistent on her interpretation and being poorly explained to what she's doing wrong, because what she was hearing was stupid - it ran counter to her common sense.

What does this have to do with anything? The phrase to be had here is common ground.

To lack common ground means any discussion between two parties lacking it is fundamentally fruitlesss. Both must have a rough understanding of where the other is coming from. A fundamental understanding. If this understanding is not fundamental (ie, the difference of common, vaguely intersecting methods above, or a serious discussion on the truth of something that one party believes is fundamentally hogwash not worth considering and the other believes in as a basis of his understanding anything in reality), then that matter must be addressed for any progress to come on the subtopic. Exceptions may apply (especially if other common ground can be reached), but if your arguments draw in circles, consider that you may not have a properly established common ground, and to get anywhere, you must strike at what their true source of digression is. This often requires taking a step back. Yes, what you believe is assuredly common sense. Yet it clearly isn't to them, in the same way, not as clearly. Try to understand why not. Put yourself in their shoes, go for some empathy. See what they believe in that runs counter to what you believe in. If you can strike at that, you have a chance of establishing common ground and using that to present your arguments as true - or discover they are incorrect. Alternatively, and especially if you become heated, recognize it is not a fruitful discussion and that you're better off using the energy elsewhere, either in more cordial talk with the user that glazes over the issue or in telling them to agree to disagree, the matter is done.

This is of course subject to exceptions and unforeseen difficulty. Further, if you view things in a narrow scope, properly identifying and creating the other party's common ground without being disingenuous or attributing what they do to a lack of logic can be very difficult. Some executions of logic are, to make it complicated, more sound than others. You may need to convince them of that somehow, or recognize the lack of ground you hold. Either way, the object is to appeal to the other individual's understanding, as compared to your own; more of that as a concept may result in more fruitful discussion. If you still think you're right even if you realize there's something missing on your part, digression followed by reflection to see what the flaw is may be needed. There is a pivotal balance to being sufficiently open you can consider a proper scope of what is possible and establishing the logic that keeps you grounded.

Threading the kilt of perspective is a difficult task I do not pretend to have mastery of. Yet I will claim to be open to its nuances, even if I do not properly or completely understand, let alone explain them well. To be open to shifting perspective or perceived scope of a matter, if temporarily for argument, and coming up with a solution or case based on the most fundamental common ground between parties using the underlying logic of an issue - attack the problem, not a symptom - I believe is the most efficient way to approach a crisis. Have an idea of the nuances you handle even if you do not completely understand them and consider an approach for them, or acknowledge you cannot and repurpose your energy accordingly, rather than spend time and energy approaching a crisis between individuals with a solution that is doomed for lack of accounting the common ground or lack of it at the core.

The logic can be returned to many things, and sometimes the best execution of this method just doesn't work. It helps if both parties are mutually interested in it, and if your interest is an escalated drama or 'the fun of it' nstead of trying to find a solid resolution, the advice of this post will likely prove useless.

And that is my dribble for the day, a day off schedule.
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  1. Turkafinwë's Avatar
    I believe you perfectly put your finger on the wound. If you are in a discussion with someone who doesn't know, understand or care where you come from (from an idealogical standpoint), then their is no merit in discussing. Basic understanding and will to understand the other person's views is indeed essential, I think, in trying to get something worthwhile from a discourse.

    I have nothing really to add any further (not that I added anything of real significance above :laughter:)

    I do enjoy your blogs. :thumbsup2