opinion

Mental health: Seeing both sides will improve communication

The more that I think about it, the more it seems that wisdom is the ability to see more than simply our own perspective. In any situation, there may be many points of view, and when we attach ourselves to one, we lose flexibility.

We grow up in a culture that is based on polarity, and an educational system that prizes the “right” answer. We develop a mind-set that says one way or one idea is better, or more correct than the others. From here, it is a short step to the view that I am right, and you are wrong. When this happens, conflict is the inevitable result. Think of two children fighting over a ball, each one trying to pull it away from the other. While the initial objective between the two may have been to play, it is now to struggle. Soon recess is over, and the opportunity for play is lost. Sadly in life, either the evening, the vacation or the relationship is over, or someone dies, and the opportunity for harmony is lost. It is a tough learning.

While we cannot control those around us, we can strive to maintain harmony within ourselves, and in our dealings with others. We can operate with integrity and kindness, regardless of how they behave. If such an attitude of non-aggression is met with negativity, and the negativity persists over time, then we must ask ourselves why we remain in such a situation. If we become negative too, then we are sinking to the level of the lowest common denominator.

We can say anything we have to say with integrity. Ironically our messages lose power when we resort to anger and hostility, and gain power when we speak our truth softly. The truth has such a power of its own, that its echo reverberates within the consciousness of those who hear it. It does not need to be embellished. It might be ignored by others, but speaking it strengthens us. If others cannot see and acknowledge our truth, then they cannot see or acknowledge us. And unless we’re into begging, masochism, or some deep karmic lesson, it might be time to move on.

In our dealings with others, we can improve the quality of communication and relationships by expanding our perceptions to include theirs. Pretend that you are an outside observer, giving an objective report of what is transpiring. As that observer, generate some solutions that you might suggest to the parties. This will help you to move beyond your own personal perspective and to become solution oriented. And it will be a powerful step on the path to becoming wise.

Gwen Randall-Young is an Alberta author and award-winning psychologist.

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