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Taking Sides

We've been asked to "choose a side" since childhood. It may have been on the playground or in a friendly relationship. What happens when neither of those sides is what we seek, support, or can be trusted to be accurate? It calls for critical thinking, consideration of unbiased perspectives, and greater objectivity. Our society could use more of those qualities in today's discourse and deciding where to expend our valuable resources.

My mantra in life has always been, "There

are three sides to every story; there is yours, mine, and the accurate one." This reality has always been essential to remember in our daily lives, corporate culture, and in the media. The recognition that multiple sides exist, and the ability to see all sides, have always proven to be assets in consulting, customer service, and relationships. So, how does one ensure they're getting that perspective?

First, accept the reality that there are always other angles to consider, even when you think you have a grasp on the situation. Let's face it, can anyone ever relate a story or account in perfect recollection of how it happened? It is hard enough to do so hours later, let alone a year, five years, or twenty.

Your source or the storyteller may have changed the words or inflections to reinforce their bias, gain support, or simply because that's what they remember. Their version also filters through emotions, feelings, experiences, ambitions, and prejudgments. It's not that you believe they are inaccurate or lying; they could simply be more unbiased. One should remember that a photo or video could present an idea out of context to support a narrative or, worse yet, be altered.

I've been in literally thousands of meetings over my career, both public and private. It is always interesting to see how attendees can walk away from the same meeting, having heard the same presentation, and relay a completely different interpretation of what was said. It is because their version of what they heard filters through emotions, feelings, experiences, and prejudgments.

For example, I attended a Council meeting, and when I opened the news account the following day, I thought, "is that the same meeting I attended?" That reality is problematic because thousands of residents had different opportunities. They judged the meeting based on the account they heard or read without considering the "real story." Media accounts are just that: a perspective, a view, and a glimpse, often seeking clicks or a read, so it's always essential to remember that the other "sides" exist.

Second, be thorough in your pursuit of the whole story. We have all seen where a conclusion is made by reading a social media headline without perusing the article. While that is frustrating, we often need to take the time to evaluate another possibility........that neither the headline nor the story may be the accurate version. There is always more behind the article.

In today's environment, we are bombarded daily with messages that demand a dual-sided choice. It may be a political affiliation, a controversial issue, a new tax or policy, or simply where to donate or purchase. A better understanding of the various sides and perspectives will always pay dividends.

Finally, learn to judge carefully. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines judge as a transitive verb meaning "to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises." It takes time, effort, and an open mind to consider all sides to a story; perhaps that's why we could improve our analysis on several fronts. Certain personality types have a penchant for investigating, like thoroughly reading every review before purchasing, others will just buy it. However, when it comes to judging which side you should be on, you can't go wrong by pausing, reflecting, and considering that there are several options and influences to weigh in making your decision.

Yes, there are three sides to every story, and often more. However, with more time and effort, we can ensure that we aren't just following a two-dimensional perspective but getting a well-rounded understanding of the issues. Ultimately, it will lead to better judgments, fewer mistakes, more confidence in telling your story, and more impactful commentary.

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