Some people like to pick a side of a fight; based on this title, I clearly like to find a middle ground where both sides can attack me – genius. In TV sitcom writing, the two key questions every writer is supposed to ask are: “Why are they fighting? Why are they both right?” These two questions are brilliant for making a good story because there’s always a reason people do what they do. This means the best villains have a reason for being bad like it’s for money, revenge, or hiding something; they’re never just evil for evil sake. These two questions, “Why are they fighting, and why are they both right?” are also brilliant for conflicts in everyday life. For today’s lesson, I could’ve very easily gone this route for discussing the two sides of a conflict, but as a therapist who does this all day every day, I’m looking to have a little fun, so let’s do the opposite and consider why they’re both dumb.
When people get into a fight, we become very similar to two little kids screaming, “I’m right! Listen to me!” The only way to really deal with this situation is to start asking questions that get both sides realizing some answers aren’t necessarily clear cut. If both sides are open to seeing their own flaws, there can be a vulnerability and understanding that’s easier to work with than two sides getting into their defensive positions and hurling their attacks back and forth. In this situation, the fight graduates from being little kids to being like fighting in World War I where the two sides hunkered down in trenches and kept hurting each other without any real gain.
Ultimately, we need to accept that both sides are right and both sides are dumb. This is a great beginning to reducing conflict because it shows that both sides are on an equal playing field; no one is better than the other. So how do we see this? Good question, me: The number one rule for dealing with conflict is to ask the right questions. Statements only lead to more of a fight. Asking, “Have you thought about…?” and then saying the statement quickly converts the statement to a question, but I generally prefer to use “to clarify” questions that include two options where one is how it feels and the other is a positive out. This juxtaposition means, instead of making an accusation like “Are you trying to hurt me?” which will lead to a strong defensive response, there is a positive out. This shows you want to give the other person the benefit of the doubt because you think they’re a good person: “To clarify, are you trying to hurt me or am I misreading this?” If the person isn’t trying to hurt you, they’ll likely be surprised with raised eyebrows. If they’re trying to hurt you, there’s a good chance they’ll start yelling at you. If the former is the case, you can continue the conversation in a good spot whereas if the latter is the case, say, “I’m guessing you’re trying to hurt me, so I’ll talk to you in an hour,” and leave. If we care about someone, we won’t let them attack us. We want to protect them from saying things that will hurt our relationship; just taking mean behavior, hurts the relationship. We should also care about ourselves enough not to set ourselves up to be attacked or to attack back because that can sully our reputation and cause regret. When it comes to conflict, the question both sides should be asking themselves is does attacking or defending by explaining myself ever really lead to the other side seeing my point OR does it just add to the overall conflict and hurt?
Questions for Pro Lifers to consider:
- If you say that abortion is murder, do you think people wrestling with all the emotions of having had an abortion will be feel triggered and need to lash out in defense in order to prevent feeling worse OR will they take your message with open arms?
- If you post graphic pictures in hopes to scare viewers from supporting abortion, do you think everyone will see the pictures and be angry at abortion OR do you think some people will associate the pictures to your cause and be angry at you?
- If you are being passionate for this cause because you tie it to your Christian beliefs, a faith that is supposed to be all about love, do you think attacking or trying to scare people will encourage them to respect your faith OR will it lead to them resenting religion? Jesus said let your love prove you are my disciples, is that what you’re doing OR will people see it as the opposite?
- If the Bible says don’t murder, is it better to focus your energy on stopping abortions OR should you be focusing your energy on keeping those already born alive?
- Since it’s been found that abortion reduces crime rates fourteen years after it’s been implemented, is it better to allow abortion to reduce crime (and potential murders) making it safer in the community (i.e. sacrifice a few for the betterment of the overall community) OR should abortion not be allowed and risk your family and loved ones being really hurt?
Darker Quality of Life Question: Is it better for a child to be born severely physically and mentally damaged because the mom was a heroin addict while pregnant and this is her fifth baby OR is it better for the baby not to be born and avoid all the suffering they’d face from their biological setbacks and limited community resources?
Questions for Pro Choicers to consider:
- Should people be held responsible for their choices, so they can learn and grow OR should they always be bailed out without any repercussions?
- If people tie their religious beliefs with being against abortion, is there any chance that you’ll be able to change their minds about it OR is any debate a complete waste of time because their beliefs are deep seeded?
- If people associate abortion with religion, should you be arguing against them OR trying to help them see that abortion and religion aren’t united together?
- If having an abortion can be so emotionally painful after, should your energy be in making abortions available OR should more energy be spent in preventing unwanted pregnancy to stop this emotional pain?
- If you say abortion is the woman’s choice because it’s her body and life, doesn’t that mean people should have the right to commit suicide because it’s their body and life OR is this somehow different? If you argue they’re different because it’s a mental health thing, how mentally fit is a terrified girl who doesn’t want to be pregnant? Does abortion, therefore, need to be a pre-signed form they have to have to be allowed to do it because they signed it with sound mind OR is having an abortion under duress somehow smart?
A Darker Question: Is abortion always okay OR is there a point where abortion is inappropriate because it goes beyond killing cells to killing an actual baby like can you abort a baby a month before they’re due? What about a week or day? How do you determine the point of fetus versus baby?
Now that we can see how both sides have weaknesses (as all sides do), we need to consider the most important question: What is the heart of the issue (aka the root cause)? Instead of squabbling over surface level, let’s get to the heart: We need to stop unwanted pregnancy. By working together, more can be done. This will lead to camaraderie between the both sides that can be used to help them better address the surface level fight when it comes up. It’s easier to have a discussion when we feel cared about then when we are in a war. In conflict, winning isn’t scaring the other side to back down because that leads to resentment later (resentment from World War I is a major reason World War II started). Winning is both sides feeling like they matter and are understood, which is helped by seeing both sides are right and both sides are dumb.
This week may you consider how you can be both right and dumb in a conflict.
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)