Can we talk about “disambiguating”? It’s a word I came across in David McRaney’s book How Minds Change. It’s something we do when our brains are confronted with new things, things we can’t predict. We “disambiguate” by creating our own context and then holding that out as the truth. And we generally don’t realize we are doing it.

We usually do it when facing uncertainty. Let’s take the markets. When confronted with the unknowable future in stocks, we may rely on statistical measurements to help give us more confidence about them. We may use long-term data, we may use recent data, we may focus on price-to-earnings ratios or earnings growth or astrology. Whatever methodology we use, we are discovering our truth, not necessarily the truth.

When I was single in college, I disambiguated every interpretation of every date I went on. If I liked someone who didn’t like me, I sometimes needed to square things by coming up with reasons that the relationship could never work out. Had I not used those “facts” to support my arguments, I may never have had the courage to go out with my wife, to whom I’ve now been married 39 years. In this instance, my disambiguating was arguably useful (my wife may disagree), but today I find myself keenly aware of my tendencies in this area.

These days, I might be a bigoted pluralist. My fundamental belief is that everyone matters. But sometimes I think everyone matters except those who don’t believe everyone matters. That is a problem; it limits my worldview so that I only agree with those who share a view that’s similar. That strikes me as flawed.

Subjectivity may feel like objectivity, but it isn’t. When a client comes in expressing what is important to them and I find myself disagreeing, does that mean I am right?

Let me give you an example. One of our clients at Accredited Investors Wealth Management has spent 60 years of his life in a very tight, almost closed, community. After running into financial difficulties (from which he has since recovered) his first reaction was to leave that community and move someplace else for the next couple of years. His spouse didn’t want to.

I’m the type of person who believes you should try to persevere in tough situations and confront problems rather than run away from them. So I didn’t agree with my client’s choice, and I told him so. But as our conversation developed, I saw how his leaving made sense for him.

Notice that I didn’t say it was the right answer. Just that I came to understand his feelings.

In this case, as in most cases, there are multiple right answers. And more important, I realized that I didn’t have the only one. Because of this, we could create a Venn diagram of where his desire to start fresh could overlay his spouse’s desire to stick things out.

I was recently talking politics with someone whose view of the world is very different from mine. I reinforced my beliefs with irrefutable facts that made no difference to him. He countered my facts with those of his own. I would say that we were getting nowhere and getting annoyed with each other.

Then I did something I didn’t think I was capable of: I stopped representing my position and tried to understand his. I still did not agree with it, but I let curiosity lead. I started asking him questions about his background and what influences he had in his life and how they helped shape him. I clarified things that I didn’t understand. And when I legitimately communicated to him my understanding of his beliefs, I asked whether he had been in any situations where he saw things differently. He was able to come up with a couple of ideas that he had not considered.

This took a lot of time and energy, but the relationship was important enough to me that I was willing to invest in it. Then something else happened. Not only did he soften his views a little bit, but so did I. I wasn’t in a conversation to persuade, I was in conversation to learn. So suddenly, instead of getting nowhere, we were getting somewhere.

I am definitely not my best self when I am disambiguating. That’s especially true when I’m talking about my firm, what it has become and what it will be.

When Wil Heupel and I founded it, we had no idea what it would become. Over time, I developed a wonderful story about how we grew the firm, what it came to stand for, and how it could continue to thrive. But that is just a story. Wil and I pretty much agreed on what that story was at first. After all, it was just the two of us as shareholders, and our ideas had a lot of overlap. Our lives had a lot of overlap, too. We each had two kids and wives who were working and could support us as we struggled to build the firm.

Things are different now. There are more people involved, and they have their own stories. We have 11 shareholders today, each with a different idea of what the firm is.

The Venn diagram of our shared experiences has shrunk. And it will continue to get smaller as more owners come on board. We have expressed our desire over the years to turn things over to the next generation. But we never thought through how that would impact us or the firm.

The only way this can work now is if we listen to the stories of the other shareholders. We especially have to listen to Becky Krieger and Brian Martin, the new co-managing partners. They have to listen to our stories as well. But again, just because our story is important to us doesn’t mean it’s right. I have to be a good enough listener that I can appreciate where our narratives don’t match up. I can’t minimize theirs. And I can’t minimize my own—otherwise I might end up resenting my partners and leaving in a huff.

As I did in the political discussion, I have to invest a lot of time and energy in inviting others to express their viewpoints and not try to show them why they are wrong. This process simply has no shortcuts. The four of us meet regularly to test what we are currently experiencing. It has made a huge difference.

So as you think about this, try to take some of your strongest convictions—whether they are about business, relationships, politics or even religion—and ask yourself if there are possible alternatives to what you believe. You don’t need to do this to change your mind. You are doing it to better understand your mind.

Ross Levin is co-founder of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina, Minn.