Yesterday my husband told me that his office holiday luncheon was going to be held at 2:30 and that people could leave from lunch, thus going home early. What I heard was that my husband thought he was being generous by letting his staff leave early. What kind of holiday benefit is leaving at 4 PM (after the luncheon) versus the usual 4:30? Was my usually generous husband guilty of being a scrooge? My mind started evaluating the evidence. There was no way I could see this plan as generous. After 24 hours of fretting (ok not the full 24 hours) I decided to check out my response to this situation. Oh no, he said, we are having the luncheon at 2:30 so that our office manager’s husband can join us after work. OH!!! My usually generous husband was being generous! I realized I was guilty of a phenomenon that I see nearly every day during mediations that I facilitate. I had assumed that I understood my husband’s intention without checking my understanding with him.
Often when we are involved in a dispute with someone else we will project meaning onto their words or actions that they did not intend. Did they sue us because they thought that we were a bad person or because they understand that the law provides a mechanism for compensation if we were injured due to negligence. Was this lawsuit brought to bankrupt me or because the other party had not been able to get my attention any other way. Is it possible for two good and honest people to see things differently? (science tells us yes)
Before more hostility builds up in your dispute, you might consider the benefit of sitting down with the help of a trained mediator/facilitator to see if there is a way to resolve your dispute before the misunderstandings escalate the hostility, making resolution outside of court impossible.