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Helping Everyone Get What They Want, Even If They Disagree – By Chris Cade

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

In college I took a speech class that forever changed my views on problem solving. The assignment was to choose a social or political issue, and then speak either for or against it. At the time, I was a staunch advocate of the death penalty, so I decided to speak in favor of it. I believed in an eye for an eye. I believed that execution was a reasonable way to bring justice to killers. I believed that people needed to get what they “deserved.”

As I researched my paper though, I discovered something unexpectedly interesting…

Aside from a belief in “eye for an eye,” there was not a single logically justifiable reason to support the death penalty. It even costs more to execute a person than it does to lock them up in maximum state prison for a life sentence (40 years).

I was faced with a dilemma: Which side of the death penalty do I speak in favor of?

Ultimately, the success-driven aspect of my personality won out. If you’ve studied the Enneagram, I’m a Type 3. Therefore, it’s no mystery that I both wanted an A on my paper, and I wanted to look good while doing it. For this paper, I flip-flopped and spoke against the death penalty.

I gave my speech and cited all the socially-beneficial  and financial reasons why it shouldn’t be used anymore. It was a great speech, and I earned a well-deserved A. I thought I was done.

I was also wrong.

The next speech was significantly more difficult. We were tasked with researching, and speaking about, a solution that would appeal to people who were both against and for our previous position. I thought the project was insane.

After all, how can two completely polar opposite opinions find complete agreement and total peace with one another? One side literally wants people to die. The other side wants them to live. To my younger self, this was clearly black or white with no room to unite both views.

Not only that, but I didn’t even believe in the position I had advocated for! I truly felt between a rock and a hard place with this one. Then the lightbulb went off.

I finally understood that the value in this assignment was that it forced the students to think without the box. It wasn’t just about thinking outside the box. We couldn’t just go get a better box. We couldn’t just try to make one position bigger or better until it overpowered the weaker side. We literally had to throw our preconceived notions out if we wanted to have any chance of uniting two seemingly opposite, and quite strong, viewpoints.

After some reflection, the solution dawned on me. Ironically, it had absolutely nothing to do with advocating for or against the death penalty. The solution was so surprisingly simple that I realized no sane person would object to it. The answer?

Reduce the number of murders in the world.

Hypothetically, if this solution were taken to the extreme, there would be no murders. No murders would eliminate the need for the death penalty. This would clearly be something that people both for and against the death penalty would be able to agree on. At the very least, both sides would be able to agree that less killing was beneficial.

My speech was brilliant, thought-provoking, and some of my solutions were downright offensive to some people. I didn’t hold any punches. I explored several potential solutions to reduce the number of murders in the world no matter how preposterous the ideas were.

I had gone way beyond “the box,” and it taught me a lot. I learned that creating effective win-win solutions is challenging, requires creativity and is tremendously rewarding.

I discovered that when faced with a difficult decision, sometimes we have to let go of what we think the answer is or even what the answer could be.

More importantly, I learned that when we stop being our “selves,” when we stop blaming or attacking others, we can step into a space of mysterious possibility and come together to solve problems that previously seemed to divide us.

Next time you’re faced with a difficult decision, take a few moments and pause. Let go of having a position that you feel compelled to defend. Allow yourself to just be with the challenge and uncertainty for a little while.

Above all else, be curious about the challenge you face. Go underneath the issue or challenge at hand and ask yourself, “What do people on both sides of this issue really want? Deep down what do we all really want?”

When you do this, most of the time, you’ll notice that we all want the same things: peace, abundance, happiness, and connection. You’ll likely discover that even though we all want the same things, we have different ways of expressing that in the world.

The good news is that when we get this, when we really understand and integrate this, we become empowered and inspired to create win-win solutions that help everybody get what they truly want. We become co-creators of a happier, connected, more compassionate world.

Speaking of which…

Remember that younger version of myself who used to advocate for the death penalty? That guy who believed in an eye for an eye and giving people what they “deserved”?

Fast forward ten years to discovering my spiritual path. As I awakened to my innermost thoughts and feelings, and as I woke up to the beauty in myself and ultimately all of us, I genuinely no longer believed in the death penalty. As I got in touch with my humanity, I realized that it wasn’t humane either.

What was most profound to me is that my change of position wasn’t because a moral or ethical belief. Instead, I finally understood what my spiritual teachers had been saying all along:

When we are truly present, and we see the beauty and divinity within everyone and everything, that is powerful enough to bring us all together no matter who we are, where we come from, or what we believe.

This article was written by Chris Cade, founder of SpiritualGrowthEvents.com