It's another political season, and the spin doctors are priming the pump. The name of the game is division. Splitting complex issues into polar opposite views so that we, the attention-deficit disordered American public, can sleep securely in the knowledge that life is as simple as a one-dimensional line and that if our side is right, the other side is wrong, wrong, wrong.
The human mind is an incredibly complex machine, yet one of the functions it performs best is to put things into simple categories. Black, white; good, evil; friend, foe. It's the way we make sense of the world.
While this either/or style of thinking helped us survive when problems were as simple as "are these berries yummy or poison?" - it doesn't serve us so well when the world is more complex.
Black/white thinking doesn't just dumb down politics. It reeks havoc on relationships when couples argue, "I want more sex" vs. "I want more talking" each believing that their desire is the path towards true love. It stymies health care when Western docs feel threatened at the mere mention of Chakras and Chi.
And as a business consultant I can't tell you how many hours I've wasted playing referee for warring professionals.
The finance department wants to cut costs because they know that reducing expenses will improve profitability. Meanwhile, the sales team has hard evidence that spending money on marketing will beef up the bottom line.
Both sides are convinced they are sole owners of the truth, and anyone who suggests that there is any validity to the other perspective is misinformed or evil.
Did I mention that the complex sorting machine called the human mind also likes to prove itself right?
Compromise is the standard solution. However after years of watching well-intended people fight, I've come to realize that traditional comprise - where each side gives up a little and moves toward the middle - cheats us of the best solutions. Because when you move toward the center you often lose the integrity of the real truths you were telling.
The reality is sex and talking both create intimacy, Western and Eastern medicine aren't necessarily in conflict, and financial controls needn't stymie aggressive marketing.
So I've come up with a new model - The Triangle of Truth©
Here's how it works: when faced with an issue, instead of taking a straight-line approach, think of it like a triangle.
The line at the bottom represents the problem, where you are today. The two potential solutions are the right and left corners. Instead of wasting time moving back and forth along the bottom, trying to convince people that your side is the real truth; look for the ultimate solution at the top of the triangle, the pinnacle, the part that's supported by both sides.
It's not a compromised point, it's a higher level solution that honors you both. The faster you acknowledge the other person's truth, the quicker you'll get there. Because validating another's truth doesn't make you weaker; it makes you stronger.
Couples who value physical and emotional connections have better marriages; doctors who treat mind, body and spirit get their own TV shows; and companies that are disciplined about controls and growth make more money. It's only our belief that another's truth is in conflict with our own that keeps us stuck.
So next time you find yourself arguing, try the Triangle of Truth©. Look for the truth on the other side, speak it out loud, and work on creating a higher-level solution.
Because the world isn't a simple straight line, and the more we argue that it is, the worse off we get.
Lisa Earle McLeod is a keynote speaker, leadership consultant, author and syndicated columnist. She specializes in helping individuals and organizations turn angst and dysfunction into happiness and success. (No group hugs, trust falls or Prozac required)
Her books include Forget Perfect and Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear. Visit www.ForgetPerfect.com for more info
Follow Lisa Earle McLeod on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lisaearlemcleod