Resolving Conflicts, A Matter of Perspective

One of my sons sees pretty much only the “tree”, and the other one can only see the “forest”.  When they fight, they claim the other is just not listening. They talk past each other and get very frustrated and irritated with one another. It’s tough having two sons who see reality so differently.

While siblings often get upset with each other for “not listening”, this scenario occurs in all other types of relationships as well. As a father, or as a manager, or as a friend, understanding the “forest” and “tree” perspective can help overcome these impasse in arguments.

The first thing is to get people to understand that our brains work differently. Then, one needs to help them see things from the other person’s perspective — empathy. If people would just stop, breath and take a second to see the other person’s point of view, the world would definitely be a better place.

Now, if you have history with this other person, like in the case of my sons, then empathy gets more difficult. All the past frustrations are conjured up at a mere start of a disagreement and now each is completely convinced that the other person isn’t listening  even before fully understanding the issues at play. There is no effort at empathy because “it’s happened before and I’m not going to let him get away with it again (whatever that is).” Ever hear a cranky couple snipe at one another before one full sentence comes out from either of them?

So, if you are caught in the middle of a conflict, recognize that history affects our philosophical, as well as emotional, reactions to other people. Ask yourself why you may be reacting so negatively to this situation? Give the other person the benefit of the doubt (at least a few times). Then, realize that our brains work differently. Maybe the other person isn’t plain evil, but they may just think differently. Then, there needs to be an honest effort at empathy. That is where a father or a manager can help — in facilitating that empathy.

It’s never easy though.