Whether you’re presented with an issue in your personal life, for a debate class or for an argumentative essay, seeing both sides of a conflict gives you the opportunity to better understand the opposing points of view. The ability to see all points of view is essential to critical thinking, which is a way to logically evaluate information based on facts from credible sources.

Banishing Biases and Assumptions

To understand both sides of a conflict, you have to pursue the information without letting biases and assumptions cloud your judgment. Psychologist Art Markman states that when you have a confirmation bias about an issue, you tend to look for specific information that confirms your beliefs. When you allow biases and assumptions get in the way, it’s like watching a hockey game from behind a piece of Plexiglas that’s half dirty because you only receive partial information about the events taking place. Approaching an issue with an open mind that’s free of biases and judgments is like seeing a game from behind a piece of clear glass. Without the mental blocks, you gain the ability to evaluate all the facts present.

Distinguishing Facts from Opinions

To see both sides of a conflict, you have to know the difference between opinions and facts. Opinions are subjective personal judgments, like someone stating, “Plaids and stripes in an outfit clash.” Facts are statements founded on truth, such as, “He wore an outfit that had plaids and stripes.” When you distinguish between the two concepts, you get down to the root of the information that truly matters.

Asking Clarifying Questions

Sometimes the information that you need to fully understand both sides of a conflict is ambiguous or lacking in detail. When you identify uncertainties in an argument and ask clarifying questions, you ensure that an argument isn’t one-sided and gain a better understanding of information presented. Clarifying questions ensure that the information you receive is accurate, complete and relevant. Examples of clarifying questions include, “Could you give me more details about…,” “What may happen if…,” “Are you implying that…” and “What is your purpose in …?”

Reviewing the Major Points

To make sure that you fully understand both sides of a conflict, review the main facts you learned and phrase them in a way that sounds nonjudgmental. If possible, review the points with the parties involved to make sure the information is correct. Keep in mind that when you’re trying to see both sides of a conflict, it’s a fact-finding process about differing points of view. If appropriate, use the information learned to help the two conflicting sides find a resolution or formulate an educated opinion of your own.