"My husband refuses to assist me with putting the kids to sleep," a woman complained at one of our workshops. To which her husband replied: "That's not true. I have never refused to help you!" "I don't know what's wrong with my wife," he continued. "She's starting to hallucinate and make up things that never happened!"

The next half an hour was spent on reviewing the events of the previous evening. It became obvious that they each had their own story of what actually took place.

It is possible for two people to see and hear the same event and yet each has a totally different experience of what actually took place. Everything we see, hear or feel is processed and interpreted according to our past experiences. Being that all of us have different past experiences, we will ascribe different meanings, and therefore have different versions, as to what happened.

I suggested to the couple that instead of going into the blame mode, they should try and understand how the other person sees the situation and how they have reached their particular conclusions.

With the proper attitude, a couple's different ways of perceiving reality can actually be a source of joy and discovery. A wise man once said: "If you and I think alike, there is one of us too many." Become curious. Ask the other person questions such as, "What makes you see it in that way?" "What experiences did you have in the past that may account for your interpretation of the story?"

We are not required to agree with the other person; all we are trying to do is not to blame him or her for his/her conclusions but simply to understand them. Once someone is convinced that we understand him, he is more likely to try and understand us and our interpretations of what happened. In the worst possible scenario we can agree to disagree without affecting our ego. When we achieve this, it becomes easier to accept the other person's view.

To drive this point home I suggested to the couple that they allocate two corners in the house: one to be called the inquiry corner, the function of which is to inquire and investigate what our partner is saying and what makes he or her interpret what happened in a particular way; only once our partner is sure that we understand him or her correctly, can we move to the conclusion corner.

Because most people don't always say what they think and think what they say, the only way we can truly know what they are implying with their words is not by assuming that we understand their meaning, but by actually asking them straight out what they are implying. Many conflicts are based on misunderstandings and jumping to conclusions before inquiring about the perception and experience of the other person.

To the couple with argument described above I put it this way: "Focusing a discussion on what happened is focusing on the past; focusing on what is the meaning for my partner of what happened is focusing on the future." This change of strategy will not only help resolve a current conflict, but is also sure to bring about a better communication between the two partners and a more positive and harmonious future.