It was a passing comment about a dress that became a social media storm. To me this argument gets very quickly to the heart of all arguments. Pared back all arguments generally come back to ‘he said, she said’ or ‘no it’s not, yes it is’. And once an argument has gone on for a while, and external support for the two points of view has been garnered, if both parties hold their point of view strongly enough, there will be no major compromise.
Why do arguments come to this impasse? Sometimes I find that once you take up a point of view, even if you later find yourself to be in the wrong, you will continue to hold, and sometimes cling all the more strongly to, your original point of view out of pride and fear of losing face. In the midst of the theoretical and the argumentative, compassion for people can also go by the wayside. Instead of trying to put yourself in another’s shoes and see how perhaps their side of the argument could be true for them, you want to state categorically that your side is the only right side.
If you divide decisions in life into three categories and call them something like ‘central/fundamental’, ‘important’ and ‘personal choice/perspective’ then it seems that sometimes arguments arise where people put the subject of the argument into a different category to another person. For example if I put the colour of the socks into the ‘personal choice/perspective’ category, then I think that this is a minor decision and that I can decide on my own sock colour without reference to anyone else. Believing that my decision only has to meet my own standards and no one else’s, then I might decide to be daring and wear one green and one red sock tomorrow. However if my friend or partner puts the colour of my socks into a higher or different category eg. ‘important’, then they see my socks as no longer just my choice or something that impacts only me, but something with a wider impact. For example they might be affronted that my socks don’t conform to some tenet of colour theory and think it is categorically ‘wrong’ of me to wear a red sock together with a green sock, as I am offending the eyes of the discerning.
Then again, on one side of an argument you can have a relativist, who is happy that something can be true for you, but believes that something else can be true for them. If on the other side, the person takes an absolutist stance and believes there must be one right answer or perspective only, then there will never be agreement or resolution and the house will stand divided. What can get past the division in this case? Sometimes humility or respect for the other party. Where a positive personal relationship already exists, then there might be enough basis for one person to decide to let their side go for the sake of the other person. They may not have changed their perspective, but they might have enough humility and sense of the long term to make the first move to surrender and work towards moving on. In the words of that dratted & currently beloved children’s icicle-related movie, ‘let it go’…