Why You Should Not Demand That People Understand You
“It is by universal misunderstanding that all agree. For if, by ill luck, people understood each other, they would never agree.” – Charles Baudelaire
It is an amazing feeling to share a deep understanding with someone. It makes communication so much easier and so much more satisfying. You do not have to explain yourself. Do not have to search your brain for the “right words”. Do not have to worry about saying too much. You just know that another person just “gets you”.
We cherish this feeling even more, because it is so rare. In fact, most of us feel truly understood only by our pets (but that is only because they can not talk and ask questions).
How many people in your life really understand you on a deeper level? One maybe two, if you are lucky.
What about the rest of the world? What about your parents? Your friends? Your spouse? Your children? Your co-workers?
The truth is that other people can not understand you 100%, just as we can not understand other people 100% because our perception is limited by our cultural background, past experiences, inner beliefs and 5 senses. I have not said anything eye-opening yet.
We all accept it on a rational level, but irrationally we still demand that other people understand us with remarkable persistence and determination. Because it makes us feel accepted, supported, appreciated and, well, normal.
In our quest for understanding, we completely ignore two main points:
1. Understanding does not equal love.
We often forget to draw a line between understanding and love. We feel that in order to be loved, we have to be understood. Consequently, if someone does not understand us, we immediately feel hurt, defensive, angry, unloved, and even weird.
I know that in my head those two concepts were chained together for a long time. In fact, during my teenage years I made it my main goal to make my family understand MY point of view, MY vision of the world and MY ambitions. Can you believe that? They did not get it! And that hurt. BIG TIME.
I did not know back then that if you try to force other people into accepting your point of view, you will create a wall of misunderstanding (built of harsh words, mutual accusations, and hurt feelings). Only much later I realized that people do not have to understand you to love you. Just as you do not have to understand other people to love them.
There will always be something your spouse will not be able to understand about you, for the sole reason of being biologically and psychologically different from you. Your parents might not understand you, because they have had different life experiences and sometimes they would try to project these on you. Your children will not understand you, because they will look at your decisions from their perspective. The best way to deal with misunderstanding is accept that other people are entitled to have an opinion that is different from yours, and love them anyways. 🙂
2. Understanding does not equal agreement.
We have that strange conviction that if someone disagrees with us, they just do not understand what we are saying. We feel that if another person understands where we are coming from, they should see things exactly as we do. Big mistake!
If you and I see the same bottle of wine in a grocery store, it does not mean that we will both want to buy it. Similar, people might understand your point of view and even respect it, but they do not have to change theirs, just to please you. After all, it is possible to understand someone else’s arguments, and still think that they are wrong.
Before trying to convince anyone that your opinion is the only right one in the room, make an effort to understand what another person is saying first. I mean REALLY do your best! This will help you to explain your point of view better and demonstrate your respect. And if they still do not agree with you than it is time to step back and agree to disagree. Because the more you try to make another person understand your point of view, the more likely they will perceive it as your attempt to force them to agree.
Understanding between two people can be achieved in two cases: 1) when another person understands you and 2) when you understand another person. Practice the second! It is far more fruitful, rewarding and better use of your time and energy!