I love to read. I have no less that a half dozen books going at any one time. Right now, I’m taking a break from Nelson Mandela’s tome of 600+ pages and listening to a compelling audiobook, Let The Great World Spin, by Colum McCann. Weaving a narrative out of multiple protagonists’ perspectives, you hear how Corrigan perceives his world and the people in it. The next chapter moves the story along but through the eyes of Tilly or Clare or Gloria. I’m almost done and only toward the end is the interweaving of these relationships and stories now becoming clear.
Big surprise: the world looks different through each protagonist’s eyes. Listening to the first story, it’s convincing and compelling and must certainly be correct, right? But then you hear another participant’s views. And his or hers is equally convincing and compelling and feels true and correct.
I’ve mediated or collaborated on hundreds of cases. Sometimes, when listening to the perspective of one spouse, I’ll wonder if I can even like the other party! He or she must just be awful. And then I have my individual consult with that other party. And this story is equally painful and compelling and I feel empathy for him or her as well. Had I heard it first, I may have questioned my ability to be neutral in the other direction!
So I’ve learned. I don’t judge and I no longer feel the need to determine where the real truth lies. One’s truth is one’s truth. Valid, compelling and true–for the speaker. The other’s viewpoint is equally valid, compelling and true for him or her. More arguing about a past event is unlikely to convince the other that his or her viewpoint is not valid. So where do you go from here?
A sign of maturity is the ability to make space for another perspective. To understand that just because the other sees the situation differently does not mean that either of you is wrong. So rather than insisting that your version of events is the correct and true one, ask this question: Given that we each feel the way we do about the past, how do we shape the future to maximize peace for our own sanity and the well-being of our children?
Peace feels better than being right any day of the week.
So what’s on your reading list?
Wishing you wisdom,