How important is common ground?

Often the idea of matching comes up in peer support. This is when people who participate in a group are selected according to a characteristic they have in common. For example, the group may be for people newly diagnosed with a condition. Or it may be for people who are of a particular age, or treat their condition in a particular way (e.g. with respect to diabetes, a group may be focused on insulin users).

We have found that there are two sides to whether matching is a good idea or not. In some cases, when peers have more in common, they feel more supportive of each other. But others have said it was better to be in a diverse group, when they learnt from each others’ differences. For this to work, the facilitator needs to be especially skilled in keeping a divergent group running smoothly.

Whether or not you decide to attempt some kind of matching will depend on a number of things. The extent to which a condition varies in severity will have an effect, as people might have different needs and be on different treatments. The number of people who are potentially interested is also important to take into account – too few means being selective will not be possible. Groups may also be matched for practical reasons, such as when people are available to attend – see the Time page.