More Than Two Options

How do you respond when someone calls to do a survey? Often times, I tell the caller it is not a good time for me. On Sunday, however, I just returned from a peaceful walk in the woods with my dog, and, feeling relaxed, agreed to participate in the survey.

The pollster typically read me a question with two choices for answers. Sometimes, my answer fell into one of two. More often than not, however, my answer included a combination of both. He only wanted one answer. I chose not to answer if my response did not fit the options. What happens when we enter discussions with the belief that there is only one “right” answer? Does it limit our creativity? Does it lead to entrenchment and disconnection? Who suffers the consequences?

To me, these polls tend to be indicative of the economic, social, and political divides we face. There exists an attitude that if someone else’s need is met than mine cannot be met, and vice versa. Someone tells us to choose between the second amendment or gun safety, walls or open borders, or some variation of all or nothing. We are asked to choose between compassion and security, rather than delving into a dialogue to find ways that allow both compassion and security. Compassion and security represent needs. More than two strategies exist to meet every need. Considering options to meet needs, such as compassion, responsibility, freedom and respect, requires a much more thoughtful conversation than tossing out ideas that only meet one need to the preclusion of another.

At one point, I told the pollster that I did not believe the questions allowed enough answer options, and asked who funded the poll. He told me that he could not tell me until the end of the survey because it might bias my answer. After a few more questions, our call disconnected (I did not hang up, and cannot say for sure how it disconnected). I can only speculate about who funded the poll. It raises an important reminder though. Seek to understand the motivation (or need) of anyone asking questions. Pay attention to what is being asked, the words used, and the choices offered. Are you being given all of the possible options? Alternative options exist whether or not they are offered to you.

A civil and family mediator, peace builder, and educator, Sherry Ann Bruckner lives in Alexandria, Minnesota. Visit brucknermediation.com/services to learn more or call Sherry at (320) 808-3212 for help to transform conflict and create peace.

As always, be gentle with you. Be gentle with all. Be the peace.