Paradox: a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true. – (Dictionary v2.3.0)
We have trouble with paradoxes, don’t we? Is seems to me that so many people much prefer contradictions: opposing positions that allow them to be right and the other person to be wrong. A paradox, however, is when two opposing thoughts are somehow both true; it’s a positive thing, a yes-and, a both-are-right situation. A contradiction is when two opposing thoughts are just in opposition to each other, and one of them has to be wrong.
Despite the fact that most people tell me they hate conflict, we tend to prefer contradictions; we can understand contradictions. Two opposing thoughts being true is a lot more difficult to hold — how can we both be right? Who wins in that situation? It feels like unresolved tension.
When two people disagree deeply, it’s easy to treat it as a contradiction — one of them has to be right. But the invitation of leadership is to step into the paradox — what if they’re both right? How would that affect how they treat each other? How would that affect how they discuss this issue? How would it affect how you lead them — what can you build on when you look for the truths rather than the inaccuracies, when the problem isn’t about finding out who’s right, but it’s learning how to hold an uncomfortable tension together long enough to understand the paradox?
Just like with the image above: Some people see an old woman. Some people see a young woman. They’re both right, aren’t they? But you have to work to see both.