To Understand & Be Understood
“The world only goes round by misunderstanding.” ~ Charles Baudelaire
Recently, I have come to intimately see how much we all misunderstand each other as human beings. And how that misunderstanding can affect our perspective and life experiences.
We all view the world … understand the world … process the world … and judge the world through our own experience-tinted glasses. And whether you are interacting with a political leader, co-worker, romantic partner, friend or child, you interpret all incoming messages through your experience-filter. This is okay; a normal, human way to understand your world in a way that makes sense to you, and we all do it.
However, sometimes these experience-tinted lenses become more like dark sunglasses or even a blindfold when we are emotionally charged. We might decide we “know” a person’s intentions before they have a chance to communicate. In other words, we all sometimes jump to conclusions. This reaction is the adult version of a child plugging their ears when they don’t want to hear you. And it shuts down all possibilities for understanding to take place.
This happens when countries go to war with each other - because “negotiations fail,” or an “understanding cannot be reached,” or sometimes, an attempt to understand isn’t even made.
This is true in a marriage or romantic relationship, when things fall apart. A lot of times an entire relationship can be based on mutual misunderstanding. But feelings and reactions develop from those misunderstandings ... this changes perspectives, emotions, views of the your world. But is it based on the truth? Is it based on what is real … or just perception?
“Three quarters of the miseries and misunderstandings in the world would finish if people were to put on the shoes of their adversaries and understood their points of view”~ Mahatma Gandhi
An ongoing lesson for me, amidst some personal relationship misunderstandings I’ve been experiencing, is that we all can choose how to react. We can choose to try … to step back and see another person’s perspective. This is not easy … because you have to be willing to detach yourself from your own view ... if only temporarily ... to gaze through someone else’s lenses and imagine what they see and how they feel.
This isn’t easy because you also begin to see yourself more clearly … your own flaws and mistakes … more clearly. This should not be something you beat yourself up over, but rather take as an opportunity to learn and grow and become the best version of yourself. Isn’t that what we’re all here to do? To live our best life by becoming our best selves … being true to ourselves and those around us … and then the details can fall where they may. You will feel clear, unburdened and joyful if you can work toward this … understanding others by putting yourself in their shoes … and communicating as clearly as you can with kindness and compassion.
The practice of meditation helps put you in a mindset to understand others because it teaches us to be present, aware and calm. The next time you find yourself in conflict with someone … in the midst of a possible misunderstanding … be silent, breathe, try not to take what they are saying personally, but empathize and understand what they might be feeling or seeing through their experience-tinted lenses. Listen, while trying to put down your guard, your ego, your own raging opinions and emotions. This is, in a sense, a partner meditation, learning to be deeply present with someone and truly hear them. Communicating from this centered place is where true understanding can begin to blossom.
“The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
It’s also important to remember that we are all human, and no one can “be perfect” all the time. We will all have our knee-jerk reactions, get our feelings hurt, and misunderstand each other sometimes. This is part of our experience in life. What’s most important is that we make the effort … to understand … and to be understood.