My daughter Sofi is on her high school’s debate team which requires her to be prepared to argue both pro and con on all on topics. The funny thing is that both sides seem to make sense to me. I readily agree with pro when she argues the pro side, then I will quickly see the benefits of con while she argues from that point of view.
Recently my small hometown considered changing several one-way streets into two way streets. I live on one of these extremely narrow one-way streets and was especially unhappy about the potential change. As the debate roared between the pro and con I became increasingly irritated and discussed the controversy with whomever would listen. It occurred to me that this issue was causing me too much distress so I consciously “considered the other side”.
Those who wanted two way streets had researched the issues and argued that it would be safer and more practical for both pedestrians and drivers. Those of us wanting the streets to remain one-way had researched and were proposing the same points but we’d arrived at a different conclusion. We both believed we were right. Considering the opposing viewpoint didn’t change my mind but it did ease the emotional intensity I was feeling.
Living in Norway provided me with the understanding that different didn’t mean wrong. When entering a Norwegian home, it is common to remove one’s shoes and leave them in the entry way. We Americans might consider this custom a bit odd. In the Midwest if I meet a stranger while out walking, I typically say “hi”. Norwegians would be perplexed by this because one doesn’t greet a stranger on the street. We all do things a bit differently and we all want to believe that our opinion, our religion, and our customs are correct.
I am not proposing that we become wishy washy, taking the middle ground in every argument. It is important that we stand for what we believe is the most positive for our people and our world. I do propose we consider that there are two sides to every discussion. Considering the other side lightens the intensity of the disagreement. Our history, customs, upbringing, social standing, life experiences all create opinions. We all see the world a bit differently.
My first Christmas in Norway I commented to my sister in law that Norwegians hang Christmas tree garland vertically while Americans mostly string the garland horizontally around the tree. She responded ” Yes, and our way is the correct way.”
Her remark seemed ridiculous but it was a great reminder of how silly I can also be when I refuse to consider an opposing point of view.
So, next time you feel yourself being rankled by an opposing point of view…give yourself a break by considering the other side…after all, perhaps they have a point.