This AND That: Multiple Truths

"He can't be an Owl-Pirate," said Karl, "There is no such thing as an Owl-Pirate! He has to be one thing."

I recently read a delightful book called Zen Ghosts by Jon J. Muth to my children, in which a huge wise panda teaches children lessons through stories. In one of the stories, a couple loved each other and wanted to be married, but of course their parents disagreed. The young man left his village in despair. As he traveled away to escape from his problems, he saw his beloved. They joyfully reunited and began their life together in another village far away. After many years and children, the man decided to return to his village and tell his parents the truth so that his parents could enjoy their grandchildren. After hearing his son’s confession, the old man told his son that this could not be so because the woman that the prodigal son called his wife lay sick in her parents’ house and had been so since he left. The son left his father’s house and went to his wife’s parents’ home only to find out that what his father had told him was true. Who, and where, was his real wife?

In perfect fashion, shortly after I received a less colorful and more adult version of this story from Good Group Decisions‘ newsletter on multiple truths. It began:

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.

and ended with this nugget of wisdom:

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.

Read the full Good Group Decision Tip and many others here.