It seems like everything is ‘sides’ these days. Which side are you on? That’s all we want to know, isn’t it? It tells us everything we need--to pigeonhole, to categorize, to finish or continue our thought. After all, if you’re not on my side, why should I talk to you? Should I even like you? As I watch the nightly news and browse social media, it would appear not.
And yet, there are many sides, aren’t there? So many more than two. Consider a circle: walk in any direction and you return to where you began. There are no sides to a circle, just round and round. Go left and you come back to the right; go right and you eventually come back to the left. In fact, left and right aren't even different sides, they meet in the middle.
Abortion, slavery reparations, immigration, public education, all topics we treat as hot button issues rather than fascinating opportunities for dialogue.
Hot button. It’s aptly named. Issues that bring us to a boil.
Yet issues that in calm moments, reflective moments, are so very interesting. So many facets, so many aspects, so rich with possibility for discussion, and for growth.
I can almost hear you: What kind of dream world do you live in?
Well, let’s imagine that dream world for a moment--a moment in which we talk freely about the issues of the day, and treat them as points on a circle rather than sides; a world where we’re comfortable looking at all points on that circle. What an interesting conversation that might be if we could sit down and talk with a different purpose--a purpose to learn how the world looks from each of our points on the circle.
We'd need to consider such things as what “choice” means to each of us. Is there such a thing as a “right to life”? Do animals have one? Is there a difference between a human being and an animal? Where is that line?
Or… Can the present be held accountable for the past? What does “accountability” mean in this context? Are we sharing, consciously or otherwise, in the fruits of past evils? Where does morality enter the conversation and how?
Or… Should the world’s populations flow freely across the surface of the earth? Do nations serve a purpose? Is it fair that the accidents of our birth determine the quality of our nurture?
More Interested in the Questions
I would love to sit and discuss these things with others who, like me, are more interested in the questions than the answers. Would you like that, too? I think it would be fascinating to follow all the paths and new angles to see where they lead; to step into vulnerability, wonder, and not-knowing.
Would I be able to maintain an open mind? Would we set rules: no shouting, no sarcasm or condescension, and no violence?
Sometimes it breaks my heart that it seems so hard to have this kind of conversation. And when your heart breaks what pours out? Love or hate? I strive for love.
To paraphrase my colleague Tony: Let love. That is a choice.
P.S. There are more conflict and communication skills like this one in my new book: Turn Enemies Into Allies: The Art of Peace in the Workplace, available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
Graphic courtesy of Andrea Westmoreland (wikimedia.com)