I read this a while ago on a blog by Seth Godin, a business author, entrepreneur and marketer. I have not been able to get these words out of my mind, since. It’s so true. It’s so simple and so true. It’s black and white, not much grey, at all.
This is not the testy, childish “I’m right and you’re wrong” kind of statement. This is about empathy and respect. We live in a world surrounded by people – family, friends, colleagues and strangers – and rarely do we truly know what they’ve just been through, where they’ve just come from. We don’t know what they are thinking or feeling, or why. We don’t know what they believe or what they fear, or why. But whatever it is, the other person is always right… for them.
Knowing why, though, is not really important. Accepting it is. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. You just have to accept it and respect that this is so for them. How can they not be right? It is what it is. What they think, feel, believe and fear. Not you. If you happen to agree, cool, but definitely not a requirement.
We are, each of us, unique. Even if you and I were standing together, side by side, when a unicorn walked by, we would not have the same experience, but each of us would be right. You might think “Wow! How amazing was that?!” and I could be, like, “Say, what?! Who’s the whack-a-doodle in the costume?” Neither reaction is wrong. Just different.
Maybe it’s better to say both reactions are right to emphasize that this goes for you, too. Based on your experiences, beliefs and motivations, what you are feeling is right… for you.
So, when someone is telling you how they feel about something or what they think, and you just don’t get it or don’t agree, remember that you don’t have to. But be respectful of their feelings and listen, genuinely listen. Even if what they’re saying means nothing to you, it means something to them. It could mean everything to them. Give them the respect of your attention and empathy. Imagine how nice that would be next time you have a somewhat differing thought.
The other person is always right
Always right about feelings.
About the day he just experienced.
About the fears (appropriate and ill-founded) in his life.
About the narrative going on, unspoken, in his head.
About what he likes and what he dislikes.
You’ll need to travel to this place of ‘right’ before you have any chance at all of actual communication.
– Seth Godin
What do you think? Is it really black and white? Are we both always right? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We’re listening.