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Multiple truths


In principle, it is very rare for any two or more people to agree that a certain thing happened exactly the same way or for exactly the same reasons. How things look always depends on where one sits and no two people have the same perspective.

Many times I have heard a single event described by multiple people in multiple ways. He says this happened and she says that happened. Does this mean that one is right and one is wrong, or that one is lying and one is telling the truth? Maybe, but if they are honest people with good intentions they are probably both telling the truth as they see it.

Groups can spend huge amounts of energy and create huge amounts of conflict trying to agree on a single version of the truth. Such activities rarely end peacefully or constructively.

Practical Tip: Say, “I can see how that’s true for you.” Understand that although someone might have a different truth than you, it’s true for them. More often than not, it doesn’t matter what really happened or why. I don’t need to beat my fellows into seeing things my way. My group is much better served if we can find a solution that honors both your truth, whatever it is, and my truth, whatever it is.

Instead of wrestling with “this or that,” try “this and that.” Allow that seemingly contradictory things can both be true for different people with different perspectives. It’s amazing how much conflict can be avoided, how much respect can be preserved, and how much creativity can unfold when we allow for multiple truths.

-Craig Freshley

Click here for one-page PDF of this Tip, a great way to print or share.

17 thoughts on “Multiple truths

  1. Hey Patty.
    Thanks for your long and thoughtful comment.
    Two gems for me in what you said:
    The difference between convictions and preferences.
    And, “We make a really strong safety net when we respect all the threads.”
    Thank you!

  2. Truth is truth. I think people come to describe an event in terms of, not really what happened, but how they see their own personality, talents, baggage, and heart responding correctly for who they are. I have a GREAT story about this. Too long for here. Suffice to say, people have preferences (like the color of carpet) and convictions (deep seated beliefs about right and wrong). Often we fight over preferences, and never talk about convictions, or how we came by them, which is why Make Shift Coffee House is so valuable. Convictions are things we make wedding vows about, and swear oaths to show our seriousness. I think most people have the same heart convictions.
    Based on a person’s own individual talents and major personality traits, how those convictions are expressed for that person are very different from someone else. By talking to a larger group, one can find a place for what they are feeling, and realize that sometimes, someone else’s convictions are more suitable for the circumstances of the moment. We make a really strong safety net when we respect all the threads. When we try to cut out anyone that disagrees with us, we tend to tear holes in that net. Don’t focus on preferences. Focus on principles.
    A way to describe this is in the Bible. It is always okay for someone to break a lesser law to obey a higher law. For instance, it’s okay to lie to save a life, in a situation like Nazi Germany and hiding dissidents. It’s okay to ignore a no trespassing sign on a pool fence if a child is drowning in the pool you happen to be passing. There priorities to life. Human life is always more important than property. This is the essence of “Thou shalt not covet.” My mother used to say, “You can’t love anything that can’t love you back.” A child doesn’t understand that. An adult certainly must. Beware of holding onto your stuff, your ideas and your desires and valuing them more than the person in front of you!

    1. I always rush. So. If you judge yourself soberly, and you know your limits for patience, or where your skills and talents do or don’t fit, you will naturally feel less strong about some opportunities for response in a group than others. If someone says, “you should have done this, or that.” You may rightly say, “I am not fit for that, and your expectations are not correct.” That’s perfectly fine to say! And in some circumstances, where one person is the focus of a group, the group can cover all sorts of needs for that person, but no single person in the group can. It’s magical when a group provides all the competing needs of an individual for affirmation, rebuke and correction, physical needs, emotional closeness, and affection.

      Unrealistic expectations placed on leaders illustrate this. When a group expects one person to do all the work, and the inactive group members fail to share their talents, they will either blame the leader for the group’s failures, or quietly leave. They need other members of the group to kick them in the pants for their lack of participation. Usually, we are both right and wrong at the same time, depending on the aspect of our own personalities that we are focusing on. Phew!

      1. Another great comment, Patty. Thank you.
        Love: “Usually, we are both right and wrong at the same time, depending on the aspect of our own personalities that we are focusing on. Phew!”

  3. This was precisely the answer I’d been searching for. Incredibly inspirational! Your posts are so helpful. Thanks a lot 🙂

  4. I couldnt have said it any better to be honest! keep up the awesome work. You are very talented & I only wish I could write as good as you do 🙂 …

  5. Great points, Craig. In the consultancy where I work (, which deals with organization development, they cite the multiple-truth idea as a reason for bringing many people, with as many perspectives, to bear on each situation or issue. The theory is that the more perspectives you include, the closer you can get to a complete picture of the issue at hand–and the smarter the organization’s decisions about how to address it. One more application of the multiple-truth idea.

  6. How true, I continue to be amazed at how two people can see things totally different, yet, each sees their own position as rock solid. Of course, I know *I* am right!

  7. This one is particularly good Craig. Thanks so much for continuing to do this – and for sending them along to me.

  8. Hi Craig, Thanks so much for this. I really enjoy getting your Tips, and this one was especially meaningful.

  9. Great TIP, although depending upon our personality, some will have a greater challenge to implement in our meetings.

  10. Truth indeed. What’s most important is not to see whether you are right and the other person is wrong. The focus should be on what works for both party and thus we will suspend our judgement and move forward with better understanding of each other. Namaste.

  11. This tip is so practical and easy to understand. If people buy into this, so much time would be saved and hurt feelings avoided. Thanks for your good work.

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