Two Ways To Do Conflicts Well: Acknowledging the Existence of Multiple Subjective Realities and The Practice of Assuming Similarity

by | Sep 15, 2021 | Relationships, Psychology, Thinking | 0 comments

One of the ways I’ve been passing the time during this lockdown is by listening to podcasts. I recently heard of a podcast with an interesting premise that has stuck with me. It is a podcast that invites two expert guests to speak about their opposing views on a big social issue. The twist is that before a person starts to argue their own perspective, they must first present the most generous, charitable version of their opponent’s argument. In this conversation, understanding and perspective-taking precedes persuasion. I think this premise could also be a game changer for handling conflicts in our relationships.

When you were to present the most generous, charitable version of a loved one’s argument, you are coming alongside them as an ally, rather than opponent. Sometimes we can make arguments more difficult for ourselves by assuming one person must be right, and the other person must be wrong. However, in a disagreement it is possible for there to be two valid subjective realities. Both perspectives may well be true. If two people were asked to draw the fruit bowl sitting in front of them, they would produce two different drawings. Neither drawing would be wrong, the perspective is just different.

Using empathy and understanding in conflict may be familiar ideas, but in the heat of an argument it is easier said than done. Conflicts are stressful, and naturally lead to feelings of defensiveness, criticism or even contempt. One quick way I’ve learnt to let go of these natural responses in a disagreement is to use a practice of ‘assuming similarity’. Whenever I see a negative characteristic in the other person, I try and find a bit of that characteristic in myself. And if I am thinking of a positive characteristic of mine, I try and see that same positive characteristic in the other person. When I put myself in someone’s shoes, I often realise that they are often more similar to me than I would think.

If you are facing a difficult interpersonal conflict, our Psychologists are here to help. At the time of writing, we have some appointments available in September. Call 1800 832 588 to book an appointment with us today.