When there is a conflict or misunderstanding between two people, there are always two sides to the same story. And that everyone has their own experience of one situation. The truth, everyone has their own story to tell.
Both sides have the right to their story because they have experienced who did what to whom differently, but how to reconcile one event and two stories, two truths?
If we look at the misunderstanding between two people from the side, it is often difficult to distinguish what is true, who is right because both stories can be valid.
What is the absolute truth, and how can it help us resolve misunderstandings, even though we are one side in the conflict, ourselves?
1. My truth
My truth. My story -The way I see, feel, hear, experience misunderstanding.
We tell ourselves a story when a misunderstanding occurs with another person – a friend, a partner, a colleague, a boss, or a saleswoman in a supermarket.
My story is my experience of reality, my perception, which is primarily imbued with emotions and beliefs about myself about the world, about that person, intertwined with various previous behaviors in the relationship, assumptions, and the like.
My story is what I tell myself when a misunderstanding, conflict occurs or when another person does something that does not suit me.
Sometimes we tell ourselves self-injurious stories, which have little to do with the other person. If someone is late, someone automatically tells himself: I am not worth it. This person does not respect me. If he respected me, he would be on time.
Here is an example:
The colleague left the office in a hurry and did not close the door behind her. A draft ensued, and the door slammed shut while I was on the phone with the client at the time.
My experience and the story I tell myself:
I can’t believe he can act like that! She is selfish, and she doesn’t notice that she leaves the door behind and makes a draft! This is an essential client for me, so she doesn’t see my hard work at all, nor does she respect my work and existence! How ruthless she is! What do you think I should get up to close the door? Etc
Our story and perception depends less on the actual event, but more on the emotions we attribute to that event.
If we didn’t negatively think about what happened, we wouldn’t even notice that the door slammed. That event would be completely insignificant to us.
However, if there is a charge of negative emotions, which we associate with a particular situation, our experience is entirely different. We give it more importance and perceive it as trauma.
However, this does not mean that we should nullify our emotions; on the contrary. We have a right to our experience, our perception, and our feelings. It is only vital that we first analyze, understand, connect and make them aware.
In interpersonal relationships, we must learn to channel our emotions and assertively communicate them to resolve the conflict, ultimately to help ourselves.
2. Your truth- Your story
The other side of the conflict is someone else’s story or another harsh truth.
For the same event that may be tragic for us, the other side may have a completely different experience. The other person has their perception and view of what happened.
For example, the story of my colleague in her head:
Ohh, my boss has to call me for a meeting, when I have a ton of work… .aah just to take my notebook, and get out of the office. …(door slammed) Oops … I have to hurry …
At that moment, the only thing in my colleague’s head was the meeting that her boss had suddenly scheduled for her, which shook her up quite a bit due to the amount of work she already had. She was preoccupied with her events.
She didn’t even notice that the doors slamming bothered me, and she didn’t even see what was happening.
We are all mostly occupied with what is happening to us. Most people think the most about themselves and their events, experiences, and emotions during the day. And not so much about others.
Yet, what is the absolute truth?
3. The third story
The absolute truth
When you analyze the relationship of two people who have quarreled and listen to their stories, you will often hear their descriptions full of emotions, perceptions, explanations of how someone experienced someone’s look, words, or behavior. It takes two to quarrel. And if you are a third party to the conflict, you often wonder who is right. And often think that both stories make sense from both perspectives.
We often exaggerate or downplay some addition, precisely based on the emotions that we attribute to our stories.
When we seek the absolute TRUTH, we must focus on FACTS, not assumptions.
In my story, I assume that my colleague does not respect me, does not see me, and belittles me. My colleague only feels pressure from the boss, and she doesn’t deal with it. She assumes that she has to hurry.
Assumptions are termites of effective communication!
A neutral story
Try to observe the same event from a neutral perspective, where we only see or hear.
What REALLY happened, without emotional charge
It’s like reading a reporter’s report on an event that isn’t particularly significant to you.
Here’s what it would look like in the example:
Person A got up; person B was sitting in the office. Person A came out and opened the door. The door slammed behind person A. Person B remained in the office. Person A left the room.
A fact-based story looks much different. It is based on only two people, the office and the door.
Here we see or feel no rush, no respect, no anger, no anger—just a trace of the event.
How can a neutral story help us resolve conflict?
Emotions are okay and should be felt and processed, but above all, expressed in a practical way, which helps us resolve misunderstandings.
A neutral, fact-based story can help us resolve conflict more quickly.
While the self-injurious story we tell, we primarily torture ourselves too much, in which we are overwhelmed by feelings.
Facts as the key to understanding and resolving conflict
When we break down an event into facts and separate them from the charge of emotions, we can also approach resolving misunderstandings.
In this example, I can talk to a colleague, respecting three stories:
- to be aware of my emotions and experiences
- to be interested in understanding her story, not just hearing it
- to focus on the facts
Me: ‘I noticed you came out in a hurry. What happened?
Colleague: Oh, my boss called me, it’s crowded, it’s just putting pressure on me, I don’t know where I’m going from work …
Me: Yes, I understand, a very awkward situation. I believe you’re in a hurry; in fact, I am too. I don’t know if you noticed, I was talking to an important client when you left the office, and due to the draft, the door slammed behind you, which interrupted my concentration and disrupted my work.
Can you please just pay attention next time to slowly close the door with you? It would mean a lot to me …
Colleague: I’m sorry, I didn’t notice that it interfered with your work. It was just a draft, and I didn’t have time to keep the door; it wasn’t intentional. … Of course, agreed for next time.
This conversation would have ended much differently if I had just focused on my feelings, assumptions, and we have our story. I would probably say: Do you notice that you made a draft and slammed the door hard? What does it look like to you, while I’m talking to a client, you don’t respect me … The same conversation would be accusing and probably triggering the other side’s defensive stance. Also, this would potentially deepen the misunderstanding.
On the other hand, I would not have the same experience of satisfaction or resolution if I focused only on someone else’s story because I would be deprived of validating my experience, my emotions, which are equally important. Because respecting only other people’s feelings and experiences does not lead to a constructive resolution of the conflict, but to not taking care of oneself, passive communication, and turning one’s head away from problems.
By focusing on the facts, we see what really happened, we get a greater understanding and the path to a solution.
Assertive communication is the expression of one’s emotions and respect for others in a constructive way in the direction of resolving the conflict. Also, pointing out the facts and focusing on what actually happened, rather than the assumptions, or the experience, leads to a constructive resolution of the conflict.
Some different conversation or approach depends on the broader context and circumstances. For example, if a particular behavior is constantly repeated, it makes sense, then you continue to work it out with a colleague based on facts.
For example, I have the impression that you often forget to close the door behind you. It would mean to me that you pay attention so that I can concentrate. I believe that you are in a hurry, and I am really preoccupied with my work so that we do not waste time on unnecessary things.
With people who are close to you, you can also have a more open conversation about your feelings and events and start pointing out how their actions affect you: I feel (hurt) when you do ________. I then feel ________,
and to see where that conversation will take you.
Interpersonal relationships are not superficial, and conflict resolution is not the most pleasant thing. Still, if we are aware that there is a different understanding of the same topic and at the same time focus on the facts, then we are on the right path to resolution.