Mar 152013

This is a guest post from Chris Cade about his experiences trying to please everybody and an insight he learned along the way about how to actually give everybody what they want.

Setting the Scene

Happy PeopleBack in college, I took a speech class that forever changed my views on problem solving. One of our assignments was to choose a social or political issue and speak either for or against it. At the time, I was a proponent of the death penalty. I decided that I’d write about why the death penalty was a good idea. At the time, I believed in an eye for an eye and that that execution was a reasonable way to bring justice to killers.

As I researched my paper though, I discovered something 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. I wanted an A on this paper, and so I decided to speak against the death penalty. I gave my speech and cited all the reasons why it should’t be used anymore. It was a great speach, and I earned an A. I thought I was done, and I was wrong.

The next speech was significantly more difficult. We were asked to speak about a solution which 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 positions find peace with one another?

One side wants people to die. The other wants them to live. That seemed pretty black and white to me.

Think Outside the Box

Think Outside the BoxNot only that, but I didn’t even believe in the position I had advocated for! I truly was between a rock and a hard place with this one. Then I realized the reason this assignment was so valuable was because 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 ideas away if we wanted to have any chance of solving this dilemma.

After some time of reflection, I realized what the solution was. 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 mean no need for the death penalty. And not needing to execute people would be something that people both for and against the death penalty would be able to agree on.

My speech was brilliant, thought-provoking, and some of my solutions were downright offensive to some people. That’s because I didn’t hold any punches. I explored several potential solutions to reduce the number of murders in the world. I had gone way beyond the box at this point, and it taught me a lot.

Think from a Different “Space”

The most important thing I learned though, was about what it really takes to create win-win solutions to problems. 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. Sometimes we have to stop being ourselves, stop being the other person, and step into a new space of unknown and mysterious possibility.

Next time you’re faced with a difficult decision, take a few moments and pause. Let go of having a side or a position to defend – you can’t always make people like you.. Just be with the challenge for a little while and be curious about it. 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 they want?”

You’ll notice that most of the time, people want the same things. They just have different ways of expressing that in the world. When you get this, when you really get it, the next step is to look for ways that might be able to give everyone involved what they want. What you’ll find is a lot happier, more peaceful world… and it’ll be a world that you’ve helped co-create.

This is a Guest Post from Chris Cade

Chris CadeChris Cade calls himself a voracious seeker of Truth. He is a second-degree black belt and martial arts Champion who has swum with wild dolphins and tested software to find the bugs. His journey – leaving a six-figure income and corporate life with Hitachi and Adobe for a spiritual one – has rewarded this visionary with a network of spirituality and personal development websites. A graduate of The Monroe Institute’s Gateway Voyage program, and a student of the Diamond Approach, Chris is a thought-provoking spiritual teacher and grateful father.