Yes, I know you have an open mind, but the reality is, most of us are closed-minded to some extent. It’s not that we intend to be this way, but really even the most open-minded people are often reluctant to accept an alternative point of view.
You’ve heard the old story of the blind men who met an elephant, right?
Six blind men were asked to describe what an elephant was, by feeling different parts of the elephant’s body. Each blind man felt a different part of the elephant. The man who felt the elephant’s legs insisted that the elephant was a tree. The man who felt the ears was sure the elephant was a huge fan. The man who felt the trunk said the elephant was a large snake. The man who felt the tusks said that clearly, the elephant was a spear. The man who felt the tail said the elephant was obviously a rope. The man who felt the elephant’s sides was convinced the elephant was a wall. They argued and argued, and could not reach an agreement as to what the elephant was.
When they presented their findings to the king, he said to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned!”
Have you ever been in an argument with your partner and thought (or said out loud), “You’re wrong!” If you answered yes, then you don’t have a completely open mind. It’s okay, you’re not alone!
Past conditioning, beliefs and experiences make up a very unique way of seeing the world. This point of view is unique to each individual. So when we say, “You’re wrong” to our partner, we are really saying, “You’re wrong according to my belief system and my perception of the truth.”
If you’re going to have open and effective communication in your relationship, having empathy to your partner’s point of view is essential.
If you’re closed off to their truth, there can be no agreement.
Consider this example:
Hugo and Janie have been together for three years. They are still madly in love with each other, but Hugo is, to put it mildly, a commitment-phobe. He’s terrified that if he commits to Janie, she will eventually tire of him and leave him. He continually gives her excuses why he can’t commit to her: he’s not financially solvent, he’s got too much stuff to move in with her, he thinks she would be better off with someone who could really take care of her…
And no matter what Janie says, no matter what assurances she gives him that she loves him unconditionally and that she will be there for him through thick and thin, Hugo simply will not commit. Janie is growing extremely impatient with him and is beginning to hint at being ready to move on if he won’t commit. He argues with her that giving him an ultimatum isn’t helping the situation, and she shoots back that she is tired of waiting and feels that even though he says he loves her, his actions don’t show it. They are at an impasse. Hugo feels pressured by Janie, and in his mind, Janie is not empathetic to his fears. Janie believes she is empathetic to his fears, but she also believes that he should “man up” and make a decision rather than keeping her in limbo… and so they are continually butting heads about the direction of their relationship.
They are both trying, but they are not able to see the situation exactly from the other’s point of view, and so they project their own beliefs and ideas onto what the other says. It’s a difficult situation that will likely not end well, unless they can truly and openly put themselves in each other’s shoes.
How? Well it’s not easy.
It takes a lot of practice, and a lot of willingness to understand that you can both be right at the same time (one of you does not have to be wrong!), even though your perspectives are drastically different.
Part of the problem is the ego’s desire to be right (which means the other person is automatically wrong).
Try to let go of that need to be right. Let go of “I’m right and you’re wrong” and accept that BOTH of you are right.
Try to be empathetic to each other’s past hurts and fears that are coloring your present situation. Try to support each other unconditionally in overcoming those past hurts and fears rather than trying to force your partner to do something that goes against their truth.
Open communication is so critical here!
Encourage your partner to tell you what’s in his or her heart, and listen without judgment or criticism.
We all have that inner critic who excels at solving other people’s problems, don’t we! Even if we never voice those “solutions,” we think them.
Try your very best to listen without any preconceived notions of what is “right” and what is “wrong.”
So the thing to remember when you’re trying to maintain or restore a healthy relationship: be as open-minded as you can.
Keeping an open mind to your partner’s truth leads to compassion.
From here, agreement and understanding will lead to harmony and a happy and long lasting relationship.