You may have heard the saying that to every story, there are two sides. I think to many stories, there are actually three sides: what party A saw, what party B saw and what really happened.
Let me give you an example from personal experience which you can probably relate to if you drive in Lagos. Driving in Lagos is normally a crazy experience but getting through a roundabout in Lagos with traffic on all sides is phenomenally crazy! People just change lanes like snakes.
Anyways, I was driving back home one evening and on getting to the roundabout, one guy just strayed from his lane, got in front of me and barely missed my bumper only because I applied my brakes so hard.
Now imagine the worst part: the guy didn’t even apologize or acknowledge that he did anything; he just kept driving. Adrenaline pumping, I revved my car giving chase, not minding that my baby was in the back seat, rolled up to him, wound down and made a gesture like “ahn ahn, why did you drive like that?” (I have learnt, still learning, not to be abusive while driving). I said the guy not apologizing was the worst part; no, the worst part was that he gave me a blank stare like “what did I do?”
I was beside myself. Clearly this guy was wrong and he couldn’t even acknowledge (what party A saw). For the sake of this post, I will make excuses for the guy: maybe he didn’t even know he did anything wrong (what party B saw). Now for the third side, for the sake of argument, I will assume that he put on his indicator, I ignored it and that’s what really happened.
What point am I trying to bring out with this post? Two points actually:
- People are naturally defensive. Even when you think they are clearly wrong, they will make excuses most of the time or even blame you for being wrong.
- You are part of “people” so you may have seen wrong too. Something may not have happened the way you thought it did.
The fact that people don’t own up to their mistakes has always intrigued and infuriated me until I read a book by Dale Carnegie (How to win friends and influence people). In that book, there were examples of the city’s worst criminals making excuses for their actions, including killing other people!
In summary, when you find yourself in a position where you think someone has done something wrong, try to remember two things:
- They will probably make excuses.
- There may be another explanation: what really happened.