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Senior Correspondent

 

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.

“Why?”

“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.

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