Taking Sides is the Easy Part

5 Jan

Taking sides in a conflict, no matter what it is, is the easiest part.  Moving beyond it is hard.Why did I start thinking about this today? Because the Nevada legislature is a mere 28 days away from commencement. And on Saturday, I read a great article in the New York Times entitled: Departing Lawmakers Bemoan the Decline of Compromise.

Without going into all of the details, four lawmakers lamented the decline in Congress’ productivity which is fueled by the increase in the schism between the political parties.

The bottom line of their message is “Partisanship is easy, governing is hard.”


Whether it’s in the halls of Congress, the legislative building in Carson City or the mediation table in my office, digging in your heels and being very positioned about your “side” (whatever that is), causes your brain to shut off and to simply stop listening. I have seen it happen many times.

The only option you see from this “hard bargaining” approach is for you to convince the other person that you are right and they are wrong. This is a very polarizing and causes communication to break down and parties to retreat back to their respective corners. The line in the sand becomes deeper and the gulf between the parties becomes wider. It’s very unproductive.

Sure, finding common ground is a HUGE challenge when it looks and feels like your perspectives are so different.

Wooden blocks concept: Building a bridge between two groupsNo one is asking you to abandon your belief system. However, automatically shutting down your ears to someone else’s thoughts and ideas limits your ability to improve on your own. No one has all of the answers, no matter how smart he or she is.  And that applies to the other side too.

So taking a lesson from facilitative mediation … consider the ‘interests’ that are the foundation of your ‘position.’ Ask yourself, “What needs am I trying to address?” and “What about the other side?” This may be a challenge to do on your own., but give it a try.

This may be the first step to gaining an appreciation for where common ground might be found – for finding a bridge.

No one said it would be easy. Being a leader never is.



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