By Lisa Cypers Kamen.
Since what seems like the beginning of time, people attempting to diffuse disagreements have told people wrapped up in the quarrel that “there are two sides to every story.”
The result usually goes something like this: One person in the argument is more emotional than the other and immediately scoffs at the comment. The other person in the disagreement – the one that is likely a little more willing to back down – sees his or her foe’s reaction and then tosses out any thought of meeting halfway. Every once in a blue moon, the idea of seeing both sides actually succeeds in inspiring empathy, but most often, it fails. And here’s why: The statement, “there are two sides to every story” simply isn’t true!
Heated arguments with friends or loved ones happen more than any of us would like to admit. These situations can start anywhere and can be triggered by anything (and it’s often the littlest things that cause the arguments to escalate). When we’re caught up in the moment, it’s only natural to see these types of situations as black and white: Either I win, or my opponent does. Either I’m right, or the other person is.
But it’s precisely that false dichotomy that makes the two sides to every story argument so detrimental. The fact of the matter is, resolving arguments shouldn’t be about choosing one of the two opposing viewpoints as “correct”; all that does is put a Band-Aid on the situation, ensuring the hard feelings will live on and the wounds will never fully heal. Instead, ending the argument should be about working together to compromise somewhere in the middle.
The first side of the story is yours; the second is your opponent’s. So what’s that third side that we always seem to overlook? Reality.
It’s easy to overlook reality when we’re caught up in a heated argument. It’s also easy to refuse to budge when you think you’re right. But reality is your friend. It’s the middle ground that can allow both sides to walk away content. By acknowledging that reality is separate from your perspective and from the other person’s viewpoint, you’ll become more open to finding a solution that resolves rather than covers up the root issue. And what does that mean? A lot less ill will toward the person you’ve been arguing with.
No one likes to be wrong, and no one likes to admit defeat. If we enter into an argument acknowledging that there is a third side to the story – the reality of the situation – then we’ll have a much better shot at meeting somewhere in the middle. And the more efficiently we resolve our arguments, the more quickly we can move on to less turbulent waters.
Happiness is an inside job. ®
The next time you find yourself in a disagreement with a friend, or a loved one, pull out a piece of paper. Instead of engaging in a heated debate, each of you should be given time to rationally spell out what you feel, want and need. Remember, each person should have an equal opportunity to fully express him or herself. Rather than engaging in a back and forth debate, each person should express him or herself completely before the other person can begin.
Once everything is written out, try to find the commonality in both of your positions. See if any of the words that are on your side of the list match your friend’s list. Also, try to see whether everything you want is completely mutually exclusive to everything your friend wants (chances are, it is not). Through this method, you’re more likely to discover the common ground, or “third side to the story” that gets overlooked during a traditional back and forth argument.