We sometimes go to great length to find someone who will be able to understand us, because they have the same point of reference, similar experiences. We are overjoyed when we finally meet that someone. It doesn’t matter the gender, age, culture as long as that person can understand us.
Why is that so important? Because we feel validated, connected.
Every Parent wants to be understood by their children, and children especially want their parents to understand them once they grow older and develop their own identity and ideas. — Husbands and Wives — I remember growing up whenever someone spoke about a good marriage — the most important reason for having a good marriage when couples “understood each other.” And it was always expressed in terms of “good luck — that they were able to understand each other well.”
We all know from experience that “such luck” is rare. Where can we start? Leon F. Seltzer Ph.D. says in one of his articles:
“In relationships, understanding — not agreement — is the key. In employing the word understanding here, I am not referring to some impersonal, coldly objective comprehension of your partner’s — or child’s, parent’s, or co-worker’s — viewpoint. Nor is there anything critical or judgmental about it. Rather, it’s used to signify an empathic open-hearted appreciation of where your significant other is coming from. And such a humane understanding can be present totally independent of your own bias or perspective. It allows the other’s position, however contrary to your own, to co-exist with it — if not quite serenely, at least peacefully and amicably.
However paradoxical it may seem, two opposing viewpoints can be made compatible — despite their undeniable discordance. In situations where actual agreement is unattainable. Understanding — and accepting — your inevitable differences can be just about as effective in protecting the harmony so vital to the relationship’s happiness and contentment. And such amity or goodwill is far more achievable. In fact, it’s precisely through such understanding that so-called “irreconcilable differences” can be reconciled. For once you’ve cultivated the right mindset, your empathic understanding of the other’s differing viewpoints will be one of respect, validation, and support.
Yes, even support — in the sense that this understanding represents a sincere, receptive acknowledgment of your partner’s contrasting position. But it can hardly be overemphasized that such understanding is possible only if you can successfully fit yourself into the other’s shoes. You need to accurately identify just how they might legitimately have arrived at their differing perspective — given, that is, their particular biological make-up, formal and informal learning environment, family conditioning (or indoctrination), and unique experiences.
— — — — — —
This is much easier said than done. My husband and I have been married for over 30 years. And he still says, “I feel; I don’t know you at all.”
Today’s lives are very hectic, and most of the time, we want to escape rather than making an effort to understand first ourselves, then our spouses, and child..ren. I know I am guilty of that. Just in the last few years, I’ve made a conscious effort to understand the members of my family at a deeper level.
This has helped us to come much closer, feel connected, accepted, loved, and “understood.”
My husband and I are still getting into arguments that seem to come “out of the blue” when we are having a conversation, and suddenly lightning strikes. This is very disconcerting, to say the least, and causes us suffering and sadness.
Are we setting ourselves up for failure by having unrealistic expectations? My experience is always once I “understand” why something is done or expressed a certain way, it is far easier for me to accept a different position than if I am expected to accept things simply. If we can take the time to explain why something is important will make a big difference.
Maybe what we heard in our childhood when our parents gave instructions or orders, and we asked, “WHY’ we . would hear “because I said so.” As far as I remember, I did not ask “why” out of rebellion, but I wanted to “understand.” The same is for Physicians, Managers — if we would take time to explain (without overexplaining) “why” something should or should not be done, people will, in most cases, be more willing to follow instructions to the best of their ability.
Misunderstandings — I saw many times that serious problems were caused through simple and innocent misunderstandings.
Almost every time, if something didn’t seem right — rather than jumping to conclusions — I checked with the source of information, and in most cases, it was indeed a misunderstanding, and it could be taken care of easily.
Mind-Reading — “you don’t listen, you don’t understand” is a widespread complaint. Recently I stayed with my daughter and helped taking care of her young son. We have, of course, very different ways of doing things. I decided it was her family, her home — I would do my best to do things her way. It proved to be quite challenging. I realized how we all expect others to be “mind-readers” — to think the same way as we do. We don’t think we should explain things in detail, we are impatient and in the process cause a lot of unnecessary frustration.
This experience taught me a lot. I am more aware now and more patient when I speak with people around me, making sure that I take the responsibility to make myself understood. Someone once said, “The Key to Good Communication is — to take responsibility — always it is ME, who has to take responsibility. This means making sure I express myself thoroughly enough, and if something gets misunderstood or ignored — my attitude will be that the problem was on my part. Doing this has always worked, and in 99% of cases, people would cooperate once they “understood.”
Acceptance — the other viewpoint — Man and Women have a different approach to just about everything. Usually, it’s the car, the computer, the phones, etc. Women (in general) have limited interest in these things. We just care that it does what we need it to do. We care about how the thing looks and feels. Men, on the other hand, are the opposite.
For my husband and me, it is always a challenge to come to a decision. When I end up with something different than what I needed or wanted, I tend to blame him when in all honesty, I was not clear myself about what I want and if I was clear, I did not take the time to communicate that making sure it was understood.
Interpretation — For example — One of us makes a request, and if there is silence, we tend to interpret that as “yes” when in reality, it means “let me think about it.”
Creating Stories — I catch myself often — creating stories. I hear something mentioned by someone in the house or at the office without knowing what it is about. Immediately my mind starts creating a story about “why, what and who,” and I find that these stories have nothing to do with what is happening. But I believe them to be true.