There Are Always Two Sides to Every Story

Beginning in the days of World War II and for decades, famed radio broadcaster Paul Harvey shared The Rest of the Story with millions of Americans.  After presenting news stories on a variety of factual subjects, he surprised listeners each time with a true ‘twist’ at the very end and concluded with his signature sign off, “And now you know… the rest of the story.”

Although Paul Harvey died in 2009, I can’t help but think of his influence on today’s lesson. There are always  two sides to every story, and it benefits us to make sure we know and understand both sides before making a judgment or rendering an opinion.

Whether it’s your best friend complaining about his or her spouse, a co-worker complaining about another employee, or a newspaper columnist writing a political story, just remember, there are always two sides to each story.

If we wish to be viewed by others as dependable, wise, and deliberate, we need to be sure we have all the facts before we speak or act.

Premature Opinions Harm Your Reputation

I think most people can relate to the ‘Uh-oh’ feeling that comes right after learning that we’ve made a fool of ourselves having argued a point only to find out that we didn’t have all the facts and made an err in judgment. This is followed by a (sometimes) tactful retreat or as they say, eating of words. We all may do it on occasion, but it’s worth considering the effects that rushing to judgment has on your reputation over time if it happens too often.

As an example, I have worked alongside a gentleman who has an opinion on absolutely everything. In his mind, I’m sure he believes that voicing a strong opinion on everything makes him seem knowledgeable and in tune with what’s going on in the world. But let’s face it; he’s just one man with a family and a job to look after. He can’t possibly devote the time and research necessary to making an informed decision about every issue of the day. This causes me to doubt his sincerity and some of his claims. Furthermore, I really couldn’t say what issues are important to him, because as he tells it, ‘everything’ is his business.

From the Headlines

Let’s look at a specific situation from today’s sports news. How many of you have heard at least one person say that LeBron James made a mistake in choosing Miami? Because it’s in the news, perhaps people feel compelled to hold an opinion, but how many people really know much of anything about LeBron’s reasons and personal motivations? They can speculate all day long, but that’s just what they’re doing. Consequently, this devalues their judgment in the eyes of others.

Can you see how this same concept applies to the everyday issues you face?

It’s natural to be influenced when we hear or read something—especially if it’s well presented, but it’s important to remember that you may not have the whole story. In the words of Winston Churchill, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

Remember that it’s okay not to weigh in on every issue you’re confronted with. When you reserve your strongly held beliefs for the things that really matter to you, your opinions will carry more weight and your point of view will command greater respect.

Do People Stop to Listen to You?

In its day, E.F. Hutton was one of the most respected financial firms in the United States. Even those who didn’t follow the financial news knew the phrase, “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.”  The premise of this catchy advertising slogan was that E.F. Hutton had something of value to say when it came to investing money.

This isn’t a farfetched notion at all. For example, I am personally very careful with the things I endorse and what I give credit to. I seldom take strong positions on things, especially if they’re not important to me. When I do take a strong position and have an opinion to share, it’s for something I know a lot about and am prepared to defend from every angle. As a result, I find that people really do stop to listen when I have something to say.

Become Someone Whose Opinion is Respected

From this point forward, be intentional about forming beliefs and sharing your opinions. Make sure you have all the data on which to base your decisions.  When addressing a conflict or challenge where people are involved, be sure to reserve your opinion until you have both sides of the story.

“In seeking truth you have to get both sides of a story.”

~ Walter Cronkite

About the Author: Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 30 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s daily lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts. (Todd’s podcasts are ranked #27 in America’s top 100 podcasts and #1 in the personal and development field.)

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  • Hello Todd,
    When Todd Smith talks I listen. Sorry I took so long to put my 2-cents in on this valuable lesson. I like to listen to the facts. “Just The Facts…” – Jack Webb from Dragnet

    “There Are Always Two Sides To Every Story Unless Three Or More People Are Involved.” – K.J. Kilroy Was Here!

    “You Can’t Know It All, But You Can Think You Do!” – K.J. Kilroy Was Here!

    Every Story Tells A Picture,
    Kevin J. Kilroy

  • Hey Kevin,

    You humor cracks me up.

    Keep being funny!


  • nursemike

    This is so true and reminds me of the lessons I've learned as a NICU nurse who has taken care of many drug addicted babies. I use to think mothers who do drugs get pregnant are inherently evil and should receive life in prison for choosing to inflict torture on their innocent children. The other side of the story is that addiction is so incredibly powerful it will make even nice people give up their children, parents, friends and family, all things good to get the drugs and thankfully most of us can't conceive of that.

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