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Three Sides to Every Story

When we talk about an interpersonal dispute between two people, we commonly say there are two sides to every story – the other person’s version of events and issues and our own. However, many say there are three sides, and a relevant quote by Jeyn Roberts (Rage Within) is:

“There are three sides to every story.
What really happened: the truth.”

Honestly, I don’t think referring to the third side as the “truth” is altogether accurate. For me, referring to there being a true side implies right and wrong of the other perspectives, and it seems that’s not altogether the optimal approach. That is, when we are in conflict, it is usual that we each believe our perceptions are truths. We believe in what we say and experience. We might at some level of consciousness realize when and how our emotions interfere and drive our interpretation of the other person and their intent out of proportion. Or, we may be aware our truth contains assumptions and views that are not based on fact. Or, we know we are exaggerating – even fabricating – to serve ourselves.

This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites you to consider an ongoing, unresolved dispute you are involved in when answering the following questions – to consider three sides of the story:

  • What is the situation? What is your side of the story?
  • How might the other person describe their side of the story?
  • What is true for you about the situation that the other person doesn’t know or seem to acknowledge?
  • What don’t you know or understand about the other person’s version of their truth?
  • What is the truth about your contribution that you have some reluctance to share?
  • How might a third person observing the dispute describe what happened?
  • With what might that third person disagree that you said?
  • What is most challenging about facing the truths in this conflict?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?


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4 Responses to Three Sides to Every Story

  1. Rachel Garron says:

    Perhaps using the word “truth” in interpersonal disputes is never the best way to answer these questions. Perhaps it is more effective to ask what we are prepared to explore, to acknowledge, to discover about each question so we cam arrive at self understanding and empathy

  2. Cinnie Noble says:

    Hi Rachel -I agree with your comment and even as I was quoting the Roberts’ four lines as shown in the blog, I was thinking that all of us have our own truths and there may be more ways of looking at things – such as if others observe the dispute, if we were a spectator watching our own interactions etc.

  3. Steve Westberg says:

    It seems the “truth” of a matter could in itself conjure up “accusations”, though unspoken. I prefer “perspective” in place of truth. Ones perspective may more easily be modified than without any “unspoken” accusations against ones “truth”.
    Then there can be two perspectives, neither of which is wrong or against the “truth”, though allowing I think an easier conversation on the matter an on each participants perspective.

  4. Cinnie Noble says:

    Hi Steve. You make excellent points here. Thank you.
    As per the intent of the article, it’s still an interesting idea to me that a third person observing the interaction might have another perspective. I guess that could be said if more than one other person observed or heard the conflict. That is, there could be many ways of viewing and experiencing the dynamic.

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