Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Is There Ever Just One Side To A Story?

Improve Relationships By Viewing Conflicts From A Larger Perspective

Fotolia, used with permission
Source: Fotolia, used with permission

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. Marcus Aurelius

One day my daughter came home upset that she was excluded by her two best friends. I had witnessed her being excluded on a prior occasion and my heart was breaking for her. She cried inconsolably and I couldn't even understand most of what she was saying. The next day I dropped her off at school and saw the mother of one of the best friends. She mentioned to me that she had heard that my daughter was upset the other day. I then cautiously told her what my daughter had told me. Her response was to say that her daughter often comes home feeling excluded by my daughter and their other friend. As first, it was hard to imagine that this mom was telling me an accurate account of my daughter’s behavior and then I remembered a conversation between two characters in the book The Spiritualist by Megan Chance:

“Imagine you come upon a house painted brown. What color would you say the house was?"

"Why brown, of course."

"But what if I came upon it from the other side, and found it to be white?"

"That would be absurd. Who would paint a house two colors?"

He ignored my question. "You say it's brown, and I say it's white. Who's right?"

"We're both right."

"No," he said. "We're both wrong. The house isn't brown or white. It's both. You and I only see one side. But that doesn't mean the other side doesn't exist. To not see the whole is to not see the truth.”

No matter the facts of the situation, it turned out both of our daughters were feeling excluded. I took a deep breath and thought to myself, “to not see the whole is to not see the truth.” I knew I needed to respect and try to understand this little girl’s perspective of my child’s behavior regardless of what I originally believed. Maybe there was another side of the situation that I was not able to see from my vantage point. With this realization, I suggested to the other mom that we should speak separately to the girls about how the other one has been feeling and then let them speak to each other. The minute the girls got on the phone, they realized they were both feeling the same way, talked about for it for 2 minutes, apologized and began playing a web game together as if nothing had happened.

Sometimes it's hard to imagine how someone else could have another perspective when we feel so right about how we perceive a situation. But if we are willing to pause and think about why the other person feels the way that they do, we might open our hearts a bit. Being right doesn’t always create the best relationships or resolutions to conflict, but compassion and understanding can work miracles.

So today, try to take a deep breath when you are disagreeing with your co-worker, your child, or a neighbor. Try to remember that you are only standing on “one side of the house” and there might be more to the situation than meets the eye. Try to step back from your position and see the situation from their perspective. You might not agree with the other person, but Maybe some understanding will lead you to a better resolution and improve your relationship. Just Maybe!

More from Allison Carmen
More from Psychology Today