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I have often marveled at the fact that two people can share an experience, and later retell the details of the experience in completely different, sometimes even utterly contradictory, ways. For teenagers, this issue probably arises with your parents on a daily basis. Whether it is something positive or negative seems to be irrelevant.
How is it even possible that if we were both there, and the same thing happened while we both observed or participated, that we could each remember and recount the details so differently? It would almost seem as if one of us is lying. The truth is, nobody is lying. Most of the time, it wouldn’t even make sense for either of us to lie. It is actually just that our perception of the experience or event is interpreted from our own sense of reality and seen through our own unique lens.
You see, everyone has a way of understanding and perceiving the world and what occurs in it. Some, as you’ve likely heard the saying, look at the world “through rose colored lenses”. That is to say that they see only the good in others and in the world. They wouldn’t know bad or evil if it landed in their lap. Similarly, you’ve likely encountered people that are “Debby Downers”. These people see only the bad in everyone and everything, are filled with negativity and pessimism, and are difficult to be around.
Most of us fall somewhere in between these extremes. But no two people will ever perceive anything exactly the same way. Teenagers and parents are notorious for not seeing things eye to eye. Teenagers have a way of wanting what they want, wanting it now, and wanting it regardless of the potential consequences. Parents, on the other hand, tend to be cautious and protective of their teens, wanting only what is best for them. While these differences in our perception can be fascinating and interesting, they are also a great source of problems.
The notion that there are two sides to every story grows out of this very idea that every person has different thoughts, feelings and beliefs. This influences how they see the world and how they behave in the world. Problems arise when one person is convinced that he or she is right and the other person is wrong. Even worse problems occur when there is no empathy. So, how can you minimize the conflict in your relationship? Here are some tips:
- Whenever you think you are clearly right and the other person is wrong, take a step back and remind yourself that most things are not so black and white.
- Ask yourself if it is possible that someone might have a different perspective on this issue that could also be legitimate.
- Listen to the other person without getting defensive of your position. Consider why they might see/think/feel differently than you do.
- Consider how important it is for you to be right. Does it help you to keep arguing that you’re right and they’re wrong? Is that more important than empathizing with the other person?
- Discuss and acknowledge your differing views and try to figure out a solution to your problem despite not seeing eye to eye. Yes, it is possible.
When you realize that there are two sides to every story, that everyone holds different thoughts, feelings, beliefs and ideas, then and only then can you truly begin to solve problems. Healthy relationships cannot exist without empathy. When understanding one another matters more than being right, you can resolve problems much more effectively.