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The Triangle of Truth - How we can quit being so stupid

Let the fighting begin.

It's another political season, and the spin doctors are priming the pump. The name of the game is division. Splitting complex issues into polar opposite views so that we, the attention-disordered American public, can be secure in the knowledge that life is as simple as a one-dimensional line and that if our side is right, the other side is wrong.

The human mind is an incredibly complex machine, yet one of the functions it performs best is to put things into simple categories. Black, white; right, wrong; good, evil. It's the way we make sense of the world.

While this either/or way of thinking helped us survive when problems were as simple as "are the berries yummy or poison?" - it doesn't serve us as well when the world is more complex.

Our either/or way of thinking doesn't just dumb down politics, it plays havoc on relationships where the age-old "I love you, I want more sex" vs. "I love you, we should talk more" debate has been raging for centuries. It stymies good health care here because primary care docs are threatened if you have a Chinese healer check your Chi.

And as a business consultant I can't tell you how many hours I've wasted (and billed) playing referee for warring professionals.

The finance department wants to cut costs because it knows that reducing expenses will improve profitability. Meanwhile, the sales team has hard evidence that spending money on marketing will beef up the bottom line.

Both sides are convinced they are sole owners of the truth, and anyone who suggests that there is any validity to the other side's perspective is misinformed or evil.

Did I mention that the complex sorting machine called the human mind also likes to prove itself correct?

Compromise is the traditional solution. But after years of watching well-intended people fight, I've come to realize that comprise - where each side gives up a little of what they believe and move toward the middle - cheats us of the best solutions. Because when you move toward the center you often lose the integrity of the real truths you were telling.

Really, do you want just a little more sex and a little more talking? A mediocre doctor and an occasional spiritual healer? A company with middling financial controls and marketing?

So I've come up with a new model - The Triangle of Truth.

It's the more talking, more sex solution. Here's how it works: when faced with a problem, instead of taking a straight-line approach, think of it like a triangle.

The line at the bottom represents the problem. The two potential solutions are the right and left corners. Don't waste time moving back and forth along the bottom trying to convince people that your side is the real truth. Instead, look for the ultimate solution at the top of the triangle, the pinnacle, the part that is supported by both sides.

Because the truth is sex and talking both create intimacy, Eastern and Western medicine together heal people, and financial controls coupled with aggressive marketing grows companies.

The faster you acknowledge the truth of the other side, the quicker you'll get to a solution that honors you both. The pundits may call this way of thinking nuanced; personally I call it smart.

Dividing ourselves along a one-dimensional line is counterproductive because both sides have a point. It's only our misperceptions of someone else's truths that keep us stuck.

The world isn't a simple straight line and the more we argue that it is, the dumber we get.

Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect" Contact her at www.forgetperfect.com.