There are always more than two sides to the discussion.

Black and white are rarely the only two sides to a discussion. Even when there are only two people involved there are more than just two sides. For each person, they will have opinions and needs that change and shift given the context and timing of the discussion. Thinking in terms of sides is a quick way to consistent misunderstandings.

I was having a discussion with a colleague last week who described one of our conversations as a productive conversation that many may have seen as an argument. At the time we both understood we were trying to solve a problem that neither of us yet had a complete answer to. In the moment we were pushing hard to try and get to a point of alignment and occasionally pushing hard may have seemed harder than necessary to an outside observer.

But to us at the time, we were simply trying to figure out the answer and there was nothing personal in it. We were simply trying to wander around an undefined room to determine where to place the walls and furniture so that we could eventually get down to picking the colors for the walls.

It’s easiest to see this in politics these days where people are defining sides as Republicans vs. Democrats as if there were only two possible answers to moving forward as a nation. There is nothing sillier than taking a large topic and pretending that there are only two answers – left or right, right or wrong, black or white.

Most issues are more like a Rubix cube with several sides that are currently scattered all over the place.

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