Have your kids ever argued?
I mean passionately disagreed with each other to point that you had no choice but to get involved? Mine have. My sons grew up very close to each other, but there were a few days that I wondered if they would ever speak to each other again.
Every time they would argue that intensely, they were each convinced that the other one was WRONG and they were the one that was RIGHT.
Not only did my sons believe they were they in the right, but they were also convinced that they had been slighted by their brother in some way. I wished Ron were home more than ever in those moments, so he could sort it all out instead of me. But each time, it turned out that it was 2 different perspectives of what had actually happened. At that time, neither of my boys were interested in understanding what the other was feeling or thinking. Being right was the only important thing. There are always different sides to the same story.
We recently experienced a perfect example of different sides of the same story.
Ron and I were on our way to a little league game and I was driving. We had to pick up our daughter, but we didn’t want to miss any of the game. Ron and I decided I would go the game, and he would pick up Bria and be late. I pulled into the parking lot and got out of the van, going around to the other side. Ron got out, and walked around the vehicle and got in the driver’s side while he was calling our daughter so she would be ready to go. A man rushed past us to get into his parked truck, yelling at us to move out of his way. I politely apologized and told him I would be another 30 seconds while I got the cooler out. He jumped into his truck and rapidly backed up, stopping just inches away from me. I was trapped between the truck and the van! He yelled obscenities and demanded we move NOW or “he was going to move us”
Ron got out of the van to explain to the truck owner that we weren’t intentionally blocking him in...
But the man wouldn’t have it! He insisted that Ron was sitting there on his phone blocking him purposefully. It was crazy. No matter what we said, he just got angrier and more threatening. Realizing that we could not calm him down, we moved our van. He drove away convinced that we were the rudest people he had ever met, deliberately blocking him in; we sat in the van stunned that he was the rudest person we had ever met. We both saw the same scene completely differently. As strangers, he was not interested in coming to an agreement- but had he listened for understanding, he could have avoided the surge of rage he obviously had as he left. I am pretty sure his perspective ruined his day.
There are always different ways to see any problem, situation, or event.
Sometimes your perspective depends on your view, and sometimes it depends on your viewpoint (or belief system.) When it comes to how we experience life, there is no right or wrong opinion about our experiences. They are just that, our own experiences and how we perceive them. The problems start when we think we are the only ones who can be right. Self-righteousness and indignity rise up as we think, “How dare they…..?” Here is a really hard truth; Children demand to be right. Adults seek to understand.
"Mature adults know that it is better to understand than to be right." - Catherine Tijerina
A child is often quick to dismiss a relationship in favor of being right. They don’t know that relationship is the most valuable thing in life. Mature adults know that it is better to understand than to be right. When you are stuck in denial or anger, you will find yourself stuck in childish ways of thinking; you are always right, and you should always get your way.
You will build offenses, and feed bitterness as you view everything you don’t agree with as a personal affront and an intentional insult.
This is something we see far too often among families impacted by prison, read more about what we do. When different sides of the same story are told and it is more important to be right, disagreements sprout up and emotional distance begins to creep in. If this continues, relationships grow farther apart and emotions run wild until the visits stop, and then the phone calls and finally the letters. Now, the family is shattered—not by the prison experience, but by pride and selfishness.
Learning to listen for understanding is a skill.
It is a skill that is learned and practiced as you work to rebuild your relationships. Being right cannot and must not, be the goal of disagreements. Being heard, and really hearing your partner leads to deeper emotional connections, understanding, and personal growth. Prison is hard, but we can make it harder on our partner and children when we refuse to grow in our relationships.
Here are some tips to help you listen for understanding as you work on rebuilding your relationship:
- Start by reminding them you love them
- Don’t talk when they are talking
- Summarize back what you hear them say (Don’t add your opinion, just let them know you heard what they said)
- Ask them how they feel about what happened/is happening
- Tell them how you feel
- Don’t let the issue come between you—no sides
- Work through the issue together as a team
- Take a break if you need to and then come back to it later
This course is taught in many prisons with wonderful results!
Stay connected, stay strong, become healthier in spite of the incarceration. Seeing different perspectives will not only make your partner feel validated, it will help you learn new things.
Don’t give up! I am rooting for you.