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Taking Sides


Techniques > Conversation techniques > Conversational Traps > Taking Sides

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



When in a group of people and two people (or even factions) start arguing about something, it is very easy to feel that you should take sides, especially when one person asks you to agree with them.

Beware of people telling you what you should think (and especially when they tell you what you are thinking). Watch for assumptions that you are already on one side or another.

If you do take sides, do so carefully and with full knowledge of the broken relationships that could result from this.


Sam, come on, you agree with me, don't you. Tell Chris that I'm right!

Right, we need to vote on this. Sanny, you're with me, aren't you?


When people disagree within a group, it is natural for them to seek support. This can be tricky when you are friends with both sides of the conflict, or when you do not have a particularly strong view one way or another. Should you take sides, stay out of things, or try to mediate?

Sometimes taking sides is a good move, for example when you see a friend being picked on by another person, or when you have a clear view that you want to express. Sometimes, however, jumping in can make things worse. When people start taking sides, others feel greater pressure to do likewise.

Taking sides may also change the balance of power within the group, which can react surprisingly. For example, in the Drama Triangle, a third person who comes in as a 'rescuer' upsets the dynamic and may be turned into the 'victim' by both other parties. An intervener may also be snapped at by others who tell you to 'stay out of it!'.

A difficulty in conflict is whether to stand by a friend, even when you may not agree with them, or whether to play the peacekeeper, trying to calm things. Perhaps the best approach is to pause, think through the potential result of jumping in and then take the best course you can find. Be especially careful of doing things that you may later regret.

See also

Assumption principle, Groups


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