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Telling the Truth in Conflict

Leo Tolstoy said in Tolstoy’s Diaries:

“The truth is obtained like gold, not by letting it grow bigger, but by washing off from it everything that isn’t gold.”

One of the reasons I like this quote, when applied to conflict, is that I think it goes to the reality that we are not always totally honest when we relate our conflict stories to others. We might convey what we wished we said (rather than what we said), we may leave out how we communicated, and we might exaggerate or otherwise distort what the other person said. We often relate our stories on interpretations, or assumptions we are making, or for self-serving motives such as to get the listener’s support to blame the other person, or due to shame or guilt and other reasons.

These and other ways we remember and discuss our conflict stories are indicators of, among other things, the complex dynamics of conflict and their impact on us. However, getting to the truth by washing off everything that isn’t gold – gold being the real essence of the conflict – is the theme of this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog. See if these questions help you get to the gold about a conflict you were or are involved in.

  • What is the truth, as you perceive it, of what the other person said or did in the conflict? What is the truth about what you said or did, as you perceive it?
  • What, if anything, may you be leaving out that you said or did because you are embarrassed about it or are otherwise reluctant to share what it was?
  • What, if you haven’t mentioned it, may you be leaving out about your attitude, tone of voice and body language during the conflict?
  • What might be the other person’s version be of what happened between you?
  • What truth may she or he be embarrassed about repeating?
  • What might the other person’s truth be about the conflict and where she or he was coming from that you haven’t considered yet?
  • What is the real difference between your respective versions?
  • What is the gold – the gem – you didn’t identify during the conflict that is likely the real crux of the dissension?
  • What does the other person not really know – yet – about your truth and where you were coming from in the conflict?
  • If everything was washed away from the conflict for both of you, what truth might you share?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

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