The Problem of Seeing All Points of View

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.

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2 Responses to “The Problem of Seeing All Points of View”

  1. August 28th, 2010 5:40 am

    Great Blog post. I am going to bookmark and read more often. I love the Blog template

  2. August 30th, 2010 12:55 pm

    Excellent point Linda. This reminds me of Jessica Benjamin’s writings on complementarity and mutuality and the struggle to hold and integrate competing ideas (dialectic) vs collapsing into an either or position. Nice site!