How changing this ONE thing can resolve conflict?

Jul 07, 2015

Moving from an “either/or” to a “both and more” approach 

How many times have you found yourself stuck in a conflict situation where you know for certain that you are right, but it seems that you just cannot get through to the other person? Have you ever considered that the other person might also be right? Is it possible to view the situation from another perspective?

 “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without having to accept it” - Aristotle

The ability to view another person’s perspective is a challenging concept, especially when their perspective differs from your own. This usually results in conflict. What makes matters worse is our fear of being “wrong”. We assume that there can be only one correct answer, and if we don’t have it then we are wrong. In other words, if I view another person’s perspective as truth it might put me at risk of being wrong. Or does it?

Thinking MindThinking about our thinking

How often do we take the time to question our own perspectives and assumptions? We all come from different knowledge backgrounds. These backgrounds and our interactions with the world form our paradigms. Throughout the course of our lives we are continually shaping our paradigms and perspectives. It can become seemingly difficult to accept anything that doesn’t fit into our paradigm. To make matters worse, science now teaches us that the brain cannot make new connections when functioning in an argumentative state.

Let’s take a look at perspectives

We see the cylinder(3D) casting 2 shadows:
– A circle(2D) on the yellow wall
– A square(2D) on the blue wall.

the either/or viewpoint

Depending on the perspective I am viewing the cylinder from, I might be able to argue that it is in fact a square or a circle. Both arguments are correct and both viewpoints will be eager to prove why. The either/or paradigm believes that there can be only one correct answer; either my view, or your view. When taking the either/or approach it forces us into a conflict or a debate. Although I think there is a place for debate in intellectual discussions, we can clearly see in this illustration that debating will not bring us to the best possible answer or solve our conflict.

The only way for us to realize the truth about the cylinder is to take a look at both the view of the circle and the view of the square. Standing on different sides of the object under scrutiny it can be easy to argue my point of view without being wrong. So if both of us are right, why are we fighting?

The both and more approach

In the illustration the problem can be solved by looking at the cylinder from a 3D perspective (“both and more” paradigm), rather than the commonly known 2D perspectives (either/or paradigm). You see, it is impossible for us to come to a resolution about the shape if we believe that there can only be one answer. Once we put on a new thinking cap (paradiNo-Longer-Afraid either/orgm) that says we are not limited to only one perspective, we are freed from the “fight/flight” way of thinking. I am no longer afraid of being “wrong”. I no longer have to protect my point of view.

Venturing from my point of view over to your point of view now becomes an enriching experience, as I am now able to adopt both the view of the circle and the square. We can learn a lot from listening to the way people who differ from us view the world. Not all perspectives will always be true, but the point is that one perspective is not necessarily opposing to the other.

Conflict approach

Next time you get into a heated argument with someone about something you know in your heart to be right for you, take the time to try and stand next to that person. It does not help to try and force the other person to see what you are seeing. Try to see what they are seeing. The goal is not to force them to see your perspective, but to open yourself up to see theirs. Maybe you’ll learn something new. Divorcing yourself from the either/or approach can become the #1 conflict solver in your relationships.

Question: When last were you able to diffuse a conflict situation by viewing the other person’s perspective? Tell us what happened in the comments below. 

  • Johanni

    Well said dear Wynand!!!! How freeing this realization can be for us, one and all!!

    • coachwyn

      Thanks Johanni. Yes it can be. So sad we often jump right into fighting mode in defense of our views.