Recent national and world events have created many heated discussions on social media and the news. As I listened and read these I noted the similarities between the arguments of politicians and those of my clients in their relationships. I believe those discussions are based on personal vision or perceptions. Let me give you an example that I use often with my clients. Imagine yourself on a dock watching a ship sail off in the distance. You watch as it disappears and remark to your friend standing next you that “it’s gone!” To your amazement your friends looking through binoculars says, “No, it’s right there! I can see it very clearly!” Who’s right? Think about that for a moment.
Do you wonder sometimes why someone close to you sees things completely different and no matter what you try to do you are unable to convince them they are wrong? When this happens to you do you question your relationship because they refuse to see things your way? I have heard people often say, “oh, he just likes being difficult!” How does this happen?
Let’s go back to your view as you look out at the ocean watching the ship sail away. What is the lens you’re looking through? Why does the friend’s view different so greatly? The friend is looking through their own lens. Our lens is made up of our perception of the world which is developed through our experiences, our knowledge of world and our expectation. A lens is always evolving and is adjusted, just like the lens on a camera or binoculars. When you think about the standing with our friend debating whether the ship is gone or not, who’s right? Based on your personal vison you are both right.
So how do your resolve disagreements, make decisions and get along in relationships when you both are looking through a different lens. How can two people obverse the same object, subject or even a fact and begin to develop a cohesive vision?
Every relationship has conflict and disagreements because despite the regard we have for another, we are still an individual with her own lens to the world. If you both believe what you are seeing through your own lens, the way to resolve the conflict is to evaluate the quality of your lens. Ask yourself if what you are seeing is a fact or is your belief based on a distortion. Often the distortion is based on beliefs you may no longer want to maintain. For example; you have the belief you partner is spending too much time with friends and not enough time with you. You get angry when your partner goes out with friends in the evenings or the weekends. You believe you are not good enough and your partner does not want to spend time with you. Ask yourself if this belief is valid. You have failed to realize you are lonely and you haven’t expressed your needs to your partner. What do you think your partner would say if you voiced your needs and concerns, versus expressing anger and feeling badly about yourself? If you express your needs openly and honestly with your partner with increase your level of intimacy.
Another way to increase intimacy and improve communication while resolving conflict is to consider the lens your partner is viewing through. This is not a way to judge or bring up the past to your partner; however, it is a way for you to evaluate and value the vision your partner presents. Let’s go back to the example above, your partner goes out with friends some evenings and weekends. Think about what experiences, knowledge and expectations your partner bases their perception on. How did they grow up? What does going out with friends offer to them? What do they say about the time they spend with friends?
Listening is always a very important part of communication and resolving conflict; however, you must do more than just listen. You must assess your perception and bias as you listen. Are you allowing your view of the world, your relationship or of yourself to be clouded by distorted beliefs? If you are having problems determining why there is constant conflict in your relationship think about seeking both individual and couples therapy. A professional therapist can help you discover the source of your beliefs and help you to develop a new perspective to help you improve your relationships and your self esteem.