Mark Twain said,
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
Yet, as we’ve seen in recent new headlines, it can be difficult to tell the truth. We fear no one will believe us. We believe people will disagree with our point of view. People will judge us negatively. And for many popular icons, the truth has ruined life as they knew it.
Another complicating factor is that everyone has their version of the truth. Trying to agree on what happened in the past benefits no one. Each of us remembers a past event in a different way. Neuroscience has revealed that every time we think about a past event, our memory of it changes.
Think about the last time you reminisced about an event with a friend. My guess is you and your friend had a slightly different memory about the details of the event. Each of us pays attention to different details in our surroundings. Each of us assigns different meaning to the words and actions of other people. A few weeks ago, I ran into a woman who taught my high school freshman Algebra class. I was delighted to see her again. The next day, I saw a former high school classmate and told her about the chance encounter with this person. I was surprised to learn that this was not a favorite teacher of hers at all. In fact, just the opposite.
What’s my point? First, it is a waste of time to try and force agreement about the details of past events. To move the conversation forward and preserve the relationship, we may need to just agree to disagree. Second, Mark Twain’s advice really is the best. Third, is from a book I recently discovered titled The Triangle of Truth by Lisa Earle McLeod. As often happens when people feel like they’re being wronged, we each became so convinced of our own righteousness that we were literally blind to the truth of what our partner was saying. Just like the warring politicians, we were acting as though we had competing agendas when in fact we had complementary ones.
Next time you find yourself at odds with someone, take a step back and see if you can find the truth in what the other person is saying.
Need help doing that? EAC is a phone call away.