At first glance, seeing different sides of a problem sounds like a good thing to be able to do. It sounds open-minded, flexible and social – right? Not always. Let me explain…
Years ago, I watched an interview at the Republican National Convention. The reporter said to the Republican delegate, “I know that you are a supporter of a woman’s right to choose.”
“Yes,” answered the delegate who happened to be a woman.
“Yet, today you voted against that,” the reporter continued. “You voted for a party platform that outlaws the right to choose.”
“Yes,” she said again.
“I am a supporter of choice but I listened to other people and they wanted a different platform. It meant a lot to them, so I voted with them.”
Forget about your position on choice, forget about Democrats and Republicans. Think about the underlying dynamic that the delegate described. It goes like this – 1.) I believe in a position. 2.) I hear your different beliefs. 3.) I understand that you care. 4.) I go along with you.
Her beliefs haven’t changed; she has not been convinced of another position; she is going along. First, let’s argue that this is a good thing. She has listened; she is empathic; she appreciates other people’s wishes; she knows how to compromise – all good. Next, let’s argue the negative. She has gotten lost; she has given up her beliefs; she is voting against her own values.
I want to suggest an alternative process that involves not being chained to your position AND not giving up your beliefs because someone else happens to have a different idea. Maybe the delegate could have gone through this process instead: 1.) I believe in a position 2.) I hear your different beliefs 3.) I understand that you care. 4.) I understand that I also care and must go back to my beliefs and also consider them in order to come to a decision.
People who see all sides to a question often forget to return to their side, consider and reconsider their own wishes before making a decision. They get stuck in someone else’s beliefs or desires. They get lost in pleasing, accommodating, or compromising – all fine ideas until you personally disappear.