A Simple Illustrated Guide to Disagreement and Perspective

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This cartoon to the right came across my Facebook feed again and I felt compelled to share it. (I’d be pleased to give the artist credit if I could found out who it is).

Here’s some things I notice:

There is a way in which each is truly right.

Each character sees truly and accurately from his perspective. Louder arguments don’t change anything. Digging your heals in on your side won’t change anything. If one side manages to convince the other, one of two things has happened. The other person has been convinced to distrust his view of reality. Or the other person has decided to just shut up for some reason even though he isn’t convinced.

If we argue just to win, we are like one of these characters shouting down the other character, wearing the other character down, or intimidating the other character into submission. If that’s what you do, you haven’t actually found agreement and you have damaged both the other person and your relationship with him.

It may, of course, not be true that both sides are truly right. But you won’t know this with conviction and you won’t hold your discussions in a way that preserves relationships unless you begin with the assumption that there may be another completely legitimate way to see what you are in disagreement about.

Each character must see from the other’s perspective.

This is not easy. Most of us hold our worldview and our truth very strongly. We arrive at what we believe either through the way we were raised or having lived through experiences that taught us about life. Both of those are strong cement for our idea of truth. It takes grace, truth and  time to even begin to be truly open to the idea that there may be real validity to other’s thoughts when they see a hotly debated topic.  (check out this article from Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend on grace, truth and time as the ingredients of growth).

Somebody has to move first.

Someone has to be willing to be the first person to walk around and look at the thing from the other side. This takes real courage. It feels like you are letting the other person win. By walking to the other side, you feel like you are giving in to their position. This needn’t be so because Mr. Six can always walk to Mr. Nine’s side to take a look and then walk back to his own side. Not only can it feel to Mr. Six like he’s giving in to Mr. Nine, but Mr. Nine might see it that way, too. Then Mr. Six’s pride swells up a bit and he is less likely to walk over and take a look simply because Mr. Nine might think he won.

But here’s the hope of movement in love. If Mr. Six walks to Mr. Nine’s side, Mr. Six will see that Mr. Nine’s position is a perfectly reasonable way to interpret what’s going on. Mr. Six’s consciousness will be expanded. Mr. Six will have more compassion and empathy. Mr. Six will see that in a very real sense, there is no argument between them.

The first mover then invites the other person to his side for a look.

Then here’s the important part. The person who moved to the other side then invites the other person to take a look from their side. Mr. Six goes to Mr. Nine’s side, sees how Mr. Nine could see it that way, then invites Mr. Nine to walk over to his side. This is real dialog and it is sorely needed.

As I write this I am thinking of problems like racial inequality and Black Lives Matter. I am thinking of religious differences that erupt. But I am also thinking of neighbors, of husbands and wives, of parents and children.

Here’s how to apply this in a practical way.

If you have a disagreement with a person:

  1. Agree to sit down and talk about it.
  2. Each person takes a turn sharing their thoughts and experiences. Each one shares how they came to think and feel the way they do so that the other person can “see through their eyes.”
  3. The listening person agrees not to interrupt with disagreement. The only legitimate interruptions are clarifying questions.
  4. If done with empathy and compassion, both people involved will begin to see the conflict in a new way.

With societal issues, this means that if you are Mr. Six, you must be willing to educate yourself on why Mr. Nine might see things they way he does. You have to be willing to read and view news and views from a variety of sources. You likely will find that the other side of the argument has a valid point even if you disagree with how it’s being expressed. My experience is that hearing other’s stories has changed the way I think about issues such as institutional racism and white privilege.

In the end, here’s what will often happen after each person has visited the other side. Mr. Six will say, “Hmm. Maybe it is a nine.” and Mr. Nine will say, “Huh. Maybe it is a six.”

Be a mover.

Make the effort, make the commitment, gather the courage to be the kind of person who walks to the other side to take a look. Many people gather power, influence and wealth by gathering a team of people on one side rather than encouraging compassion and empathy. Don’t let them win. You do the walking. You take the initiative. There just may be another way to look at things.

 

What does this cartoon cause you to think about?