Yes. … And No.


I have a colleague, Doug, who frequently replies to pleas for his agreement with “Well, yes…. And no.”

Often this is greeted by a chorus of groans. Especially when the agreement he’s being asked for is one side or the other’s proposed solution to an argument we’ve been having for far too long in our sleep-deprived and jet-lagged state.

But I find it delightful!

Doug is a scholar. A thinker. He doesn’t talk a lot in meetings, but usually what he has to say is powerful, so when he does speak the room tends to go kind of quiet with everybody listening.

After the groans subside Doug carefully outlines the ‘Yes’, fielding questions, and sounding out any new information.

Then he carefully outlines the ‘No’ in the same way.

And I always benefit from the reminder that there is very seldom a 100% yes or 100% no answer to a complex problem.

Doug’s approach reminds me to look at the argument in 360 degrees to see it more clearly.

It reminds me that those 360 degrees are the only way to see it clearly.

Take for example, reducing abortion in the United States: If I oppose abortion, I should only vote for staunch conservatives, right?

Well, yes. …. and no.

Yes, if I vote for conservatives they are probably going to verbally agree with my views on abortion, and those liberals certainly are not. They may also appoint Supreme Court Justices who are more likely to oppose abortion, and will also probably oppose pro-abortion legislation.

On the other hand though, they will probably vote to cut funding for education, health care, and parental leave, and will focus more attention on the rights of the rich than the wages and benefits of the average worker.

Yet access to education and healthcare, escaping poverty, and parents being able to devote adequate time and energy to raising and attending to their children are all protective against abortion.

So the ‘yes’ doesn’t necessarily have ‘yes’ results, and the ‘no’ sometimes does!

In this season of ten thousand pressing decisions – finding a new job, maybe a new career, voting  for a new president, finding a new place to live – I’m trying to keep focused on the biggest picture.

So I’m grateful for the yes, AND the no, because together they hold far more truth than my narrow first impression.

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