Feeling Understood

I was very fortunate to be selected to participate on a wonderful website called Inspire Me Today this past week as one of their “luminaries.” I wanted to find some words of wisdom that would be truly inspiring  – which is often difficult to do, because so much is said by so many in today’s world of widely available information and media.

When I was thinking about this I had the realization, though, that even with all of the bombardment of information and media, with the ability to “connect” with long-lost friends and family members via social networking, and with the ability to log on at any time day or night and find someone to “chat” with, why is it that so many of us still feel so misunderstood? It seems to me to be the common human need to have someone to listen to us, to understand us and to know who we really are, and yet with all of the connecting that is going on, do most of us feel we are being understood?

I know that for me, when I share my thoughts or feelings and someone responds in a way that implies they didn’t “get” me, it’s a frustrating experience. I feel sometimes that the words I use, or the way I write, is simply not sufficient for the thoughts and feelings I am trying to convey. In my book, “Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior”, I talk about not assuming you know what others mean (Secret #4). Now admittedly, it’s hard to do this all of the time, given our lack of time and inability to spend hours in conversation with others. But assuming that we know what others mean is often the main reason we don’t understand them the way they would like us to.

I notice on too many occasions, especially with my husband and with my children, that I do “assume” they get me. I assume that they know what I am talking about, and yet time after time I realize that I haven’t taken the necessary steps to ensure they have a chance to know what I mean. So I feel frustrated and yet I’m not helping myself to BE understood! In talking with people all over the world, I find this to be a common experience. We want to be understood, but maybe we don’t want to work so hard to get there!

And, of course, in the world of social media it’s hard sometimes to understand in totality what someone is trying to communicate through their writing. Rather than “judge” or be quick to disagree, maybe we could respond with “What do you mean by that?” or “Why is that important to you?” Seeking to understand is the kindest of all things we can do for another human being.

This week, try to put an emphasis on taking the time to understand – putting aside your assumptions and wanting to learn more about others around you, whether in an online exchange, through a blog or in dialogue with another.