A Perspective on Truth and Conflict
“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a
perspective, not the truth.”
My perspective is my point of view, a subjective evaluation. That simple fact is true for everyone. If I were drawing with perspective I would show the appearance of things relative to each other as they appear to my eye. The distant mountain would be smaller in the drawing than my fingers on the pencil immediately in front of me.
When we find ourselves in a conflict, it is even more important to remember that we see the world from our own eyes.
A while ago two people were referred to meby their boss for a mediation because of a workplace conflict between them. Their conflict was having such a disruptiveeffect on others in their organization that the boss said this mediation was their last opportunity to find a way to work together because the boss felt his only alternative was to fire one or both of these employees.
The room was very tense when the mediation meeting began. In earlier phone conversations, both had told me about how they had gotten along well until several months earlier. Both knew things had changed, but made their own assumptions about why the change had occurred. They did not trust each other now. The employee felt bullied; the manager thought the employee was trying to manipulate senior management to get the manager fired.
Fast forward to a point about one hour into the mediation: the manager talked about the company problems she was dealing with and how she valued the input of the employee. The employee talked about how he had understood her actions completely differently. The conversation continued but the climate in the room was shifting quickly. They were listening to each other. Their perspectives were being revealed to each other. The mention of lies and manipulation had disappeared. By the end of the three hours scheduled for the mediation meeting they had reached an agreement which resolved the conflict between them.
They left the mediation room joking with each other about jointly participating in an upcoming company event. I left thinking about the power of perspective.
What was plain and obvious to each of them, the fingers right in front of their eyes, was invisible, or at best barely visible, to the other. Nothing had changed, except that everything changed when the difference in their perspectives was revealed. When someone describes a different “truth” it
does not mean they are lying; it is their revelation of what is true for them. The challenge for those of us trying to resolve conflict is to set aside our own picture while we take the time to listen and understand the other person’s “truth”.