Humans naturally see things from their own point of view, which is based on their past experiences. While all views should be valued, not all them are correct or even complete. More often than not, there are at least two sides to every story, and all possible angles are required to understand it in full.
You may have heard people say, “there are two sides to every story, yours mine, and the truth.” Well, it’s not necessarily that neither side has the truth. Sometimes one side is correct, while the other is wildly wrong. However, the entirety of any story extends beyond getting to the truth.
Here’s why it’s important to look at situations from all angles, even when you think you already know what’s right or wrong.
1. Technicalities aren’t always what’s fair
When faced with a situation where someone is technically right, and the other person is technically wrong, sometimes it’s not fair to side with the person who is correct. Every story has more than just a right and wrong component. Fairness should also be considered.
Take the example of a retail cashier. A customer brings some tennis balls to the register and when they are rung up, says the price is too high – they were in a clearance bin and should be half price. The cashier gets someone to check, and while those tennis balls may have been in the bin, that’s not where they belong. They are not on sale or clearance.
In this case, the cashier is clearly correct. However, the customer is disappointed, thinking they had a good deal. In the end, the cashier honors the half price discount for the customer because keeping the customer happy is more important than getting an extra $10 in sales.
Another example might be a tenant who signed a lease agreement stating they’ll pay the landlord $300 in late fees each time they’re late with the rent. Although they signed the agreement, $300 is likely to be seen as unreasonable, even if it’s not illegal. A contract is a contract, but what’s fair is fair.
2. People alter what you see
Whenever you’re given information about a situation, whether it’s in print, on the computer, or in a video, you can be certain someone has painted themselves in an optimal light before sharing. For example, look at all the police-citizen encounter videos on YouTube. People routinely post videos of traffic stops and other encounters, and it usually shows cops in a bad light. Many of these videos leave out the full context, like the citizen antagonizing the officer before the start of the published segment.
This type of deception is exactly what perpetuates harmful anti-police rhetoric. The average YouTube viewer won’t look into it any further, and the video will only strengthen their disdain for cops. This issue is exactly what the National Police Association strives to combat through public outreach and legal work.
Next time you’re presented with a video that looks like it’s leaning in one direction, remember that you probably don’t have the entire context and appearances can be deceiving.
3. People intentionally mislead
What you see is not what you get, especially online. For example, KUTV aired a story about someone who Photoshopped a police officer to make him look like he was flipping a citizen off during an encounter. After the image made rounds on social media, the department reviewed the bodycam footage and found the officer actually had two fingers up, not one.
Whether you’re looking at images, watching video, or listening to someone share a story with you, be aware that they might be withholding information intentionally. The missing context can be obtained through listening to all parties involved or conducting your own investigation into the matter.
4. Memory is unreliable
Human memory is notoriously fallible and has been the subject of many research studies that show just how bad it can be. For example, one group of researchers showed participants films without endings and asked them to recall what they saw a week later. Participants recalled seeing things they were never shown 42.5% of the time. This is because our brains fill in the blanks with what we expect to happen, even if it never does. If every story is based on memory, then you need all sides to figure out what’s true.
Consider all sides before making a decision
If you have an important decision to make, consider all sides before going forward. You might never get 100% truth, but by looking from different angles, you will get close enough to make a confident move.