“He said/she said” has many meanings in today’s world. It plays a huge, and often unfair, role in determining whether harassment, abuse, or assault has occurred. But it can also create unpleasant exchanges in the best of Massachusetts relationships.
There is a saying that perception is reality. That isn’t to say that there is no such thing as verifiable fact. Only that without a completely objective measure, like an audio or video recording, it is impossible to establish. Unfortunately, many people, maybe even you, expend a tremendous amount of energy and emotion battling someone else’s perception.
Unless the couple understands that this he said/she said is always an exercise in futility, they will keep getting caught up in this unresolvable loop of seeking to be right; never getting to the heart of the issue and continuing to feel unheard and invalidated.
The truth is, you never experience an event or conversation the same way as another person. More to the point, you will never really convince them they didn’t experience it the way they believe they did. There is always your version and their version of what happened. The objective fact is somewhere in the middle but, for all useful purposes, that doesn’t matter.
So how do you stop this power struggle? Drop your end of the rope. Once you stop pulling against your partner, they will stop pulling against you. Then, and only then, can you have a real conversation.
The first step in this process is determining what is really going on. You heard what you heard and experienced what you experienced. You don’t have to justify or defend it, but you do need to understand that it is subjective. It is filtered through the lens of your physical, mental and emotional state in the moment and your past experiences, both with this person and everyone else you’ve encountered in your life.
What you hear isn’t necessarily what they said or meant. That doesn’t mean you didn’t hear it that way. It is what you experienced. The question then becomes, now what? Without any more information, you will take action on what you believe occurred. And, therein, lies the road to ruin, or at least an argument.
But when you get sidetracked into what was or wasn’t said, the tone it was or wasn’t said in, what was meant or not meant, you lose control of the situation and, often, of yourself. You’re convinced you’re “right”. Your partner is convinced they are. Neither will give ground so it turns into a lose for you, a lose for them, and a big lose for your relationship.
The antidote is to STOP, FEEL, and THINK.
STOP: As soon as you recognize the conversation is headed in the wrong direction, STOP talking. If you realize you made a wrong turn on the road, you wouldn’t keep driving away from where you’re trying to go. The same behavior makes no more sense in a conversation.
FEEL: Once you are no longer headed in the wrong direction, deal with the feelings that have been stirred up. What you understood your partner to say, the tone they used, or their facial expression/body language created a reaction. Do you feel hurt, embarrassed, belittled, shamed, afraid, frustrated, vulnerable, etc.? If you feel anger, there is probably another emotion at the core that is more relevant.
THINK: This emotion is the foundation for the story that you are telling yourself about what’s happening. It is the filter that determines what you pay attention to and remember. It is a reflection of what matters to you. But, it is only one possible interpretation. What might some other ones be? When you can identify some, you have the option of choosing a different one. This gives you a way out of the He said/She said straight jacket.
A secondary, but no less important, question to ask is, “Why is it so important to be right?” If you are “right”, then your partner is automatically “wrong”. If you can have different perspectives, both of you can be “right”. This stops the argument over what happened and allows you to move into the process of finding resolution.
Should you be in the midst of a divorce or contemplating divorce, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-944-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.