Have you ever remembered a situation, conversation, or encounter one way, but someone else who experienced it with you remembers it happening a different way?

The human brain, its capacity for memory, and what it believes it saw, tasted, smelled, or heard, is not always the most accurate. In fact, eyewitness testimonies are not completely reliable because what a person thinks they saw might not actually be what happened in any given situation. When someone sees something, the brain interprets what was experienced. This allows for error when a person tries to retrieve the information later on. This also explains why two people can witness the same event but have two different stories to tell about it when it’s over.

It is easy for our brains to be tricked by illusions. A visual illusion refers to when physical reality is different from what is perceived by a person. Sometimes we believe that we see things that aren’t actually there; other times, we do not see something that is present. Our brains interpret everything that we see in our lives (sounds exhausting, right?!). Since people interpret things differently, it is not a surprise that we see things differently from one another. During a time when we are looking at optical illusions, the interpretation is the part that gets confused, not the physical reality of what we are seeing.

When in your life has this impacted your relationships with others?

Having empathy means considering the other person’s perception and holding space for how they felt in that moment, regardless of the way you perceived the situation. Genuine empathy is the starting point for connection in every conflict. Whether with our partner, child, co-worker, or even within ourselves— it is imperative to hold space with true empathy to move through conflicts with ease and grace.

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