When we understand their perspective, we may actually gain empathy for their position and see an angle for compromise.
What if we started giving people the benefit of the doubt? Instead of beginning with the idea that everyone who doesn’t agree with us is dumb or evil, we could start by thinking the best about them. Unfortunately, politicians and television talk shows do the exact opposite. They start from an adversarial point of view. If you don’t agree with me, you are stupid or you are out to screw me over or the people I claim to represent. The world today is a place where differing viewpoints make for a negative environment and a culture of negativity.
I recently spent a weekend with a group of West Point classmates and spouses in a VRBO home in the Smoky Mountains. It has been over 30 years since we graduated together. We came from all over the country and have each formed our own opinions on the issues of today’s world. There were some strongly held convictions by people in the group. The points were often passionately argued and well thought out. When it was all said and done and the debates ended, we went back to laughing and telling stories about our days as cadets at West Point.
As I flew home and thought about this group of people whom I loved and respected so much, I was brought to an epiphany. The reason that these men and women could argue so passionately and still remain friends was they believed in the other person and their motives. We each believed that the other person’s passion was driven by the purity of their motives and we respected that. In some cases, I actually heard people say, “That’s a good point.” Or “I never thought of it from that perspective.” When was the last time you heard that on “The View” or on Sean Hannity? When were those comments ever typed into a Facebook thread?
When we give someone’s motives the benefit of the doubt, our ears tend to be more receptive to their point of view. That does not make our position any weaker. In fact, when we gain real insight into another person’s perspective, we are actually better prepared to defend our own point of view. But that is not all. When we understand their perspective, we may actually gain empathy for their position and see an angle for compromise.
If the influential people in our government or in the media actually worked from this foundation, imagine the solutions that could occur. We wouldn’t be caught in a constant loop of choosing sides and arguing without hearing. We could see that the other person sees the same problem we do, but that they may have a different approach to solving it. When we both agree on a common problem, maybe we will find a way to find a solution that is not just “my plan” or “your plan.” That solution can be one that results in buy-in from both sides and a commitment to see it through.
Now what if we taught this principle in our homes and in our schools? What would the next generations learn if they were taught to start by giving the other person the benefit of the doubt? What would happen if the adults in our society – you and me – began to model that behavior?
Maybe the polarization of our society would be gone by the time the next generation is in charge. Maybe real progress could be made on the big issues of our day. Maybe our society would just be a more positive place to live today and one where people looked forward to the possibilities of the future.
Dig Deep Questions:
● Who do you disagree with but still respect?
● What would happen in your team, your family or in our society if people gave each other the benefit of the doubt?
“Would you follow you?” That is a critical question we all need to ask ourselves if we want to become Leaders of Character. Research has proven that people want to follow character. But where is your character today?
Here is a quick assessment that will take you 5 minutes to figure it out. Nobody will ever see your results but you.
Warning: If you are not going to be honest with yourself this is a worthless assessment.
To take the assessment use the QR code above or go to www.MYCHARACTERTEST.com