Why Bother To Understand?

Why Bother To Understand?

Not everyone is like me and for this I am grateful. Adjectives others have used to describe me, at least ones I’ve heard, include—a minimalist, and intense. My spouse’s personality, along with those of close friends, leans in a different direction altogether. They are relaxed individuals and collectors of things they may use someday. Though somewhat opposite in our temperaments and dispositions, the people in my life have somehow learned to understand me and I, them. 

    In Understanding We Are Understood 

Connecting with others in a way in which we can grasp the words they speak and even the ones they do not, takes a concerted amount of time, effort, interest, and intention. Listening in order to discern another’s words and ideas, is to make a commitment to pay attention to them. If they trust us enough to share on an interpersonal level, then honoring their trust includes giving them our undivided attention. After all, it is what we’d want them to do for us. 

Understanding the people in our lives also includes putting forth an effort to intentionally listen for what is not being said. Since my husband knows me well, he gives me ample time to formulate words for my thoughts. At times, communicating a felt need, a big disappointment or a strong desire for something to change, is difficult to express. So when the topic is tough and emotions get stirred, making me uncomfortable, my husband knows enough to give me plenty of wait time. When I pause for long periods in between my words, or when my gaze turns upward, toward the ceiling, these cues speak volumes to him. He knows I’m having a tough time talking about the topic and at the same time, knows I need to talk about it. 

Sometimes, hard conversations can be strained and less natural than we want them to be, but persevering even in the midst of the discomfort might just be what we need to progress toward understanding each other. 

When another person confides in me, it can get a little scary. I want to be discerning and yet at the same time, I wonder if I have what they need.  Am I wise enough to give them good counsel or advice?  Do they need me to step in and fix something? 

What I find though, is they simply want someone to hear them. They want someone to know they are listening with the intention to understand. Recently, after a friend confided in me about an issue she faced with a family member, she paid me a wonderful compliment when she said, “You are such a good listener.” 

Did I fix anything for her? No. Did I give her advice? No. Did I give her my undivided attention? Yes. And she walked away feeling understood.  

Why bother to understand? Hearing is easy, understanding is harder, but it is worth the effort because it is key to any relationship.

Why Bother Hearing What You Can’t Understand?

Why Bother Hearing What You Can’t Understand?

Making a transaction over the phone is not my favorite way to do business, but sometimes it is necessary.  Just recently, our little local internet company was bought out by a larger corporation and now I can no longer just walk into their office, and talk with a customer service representative native to our region. To fix the problem on my bill, I had to instead, make a phone call.  

Much of What We Speak Goes Unsaid

I knew making the phone call would be much harder for me than face to face contact since exchanging information with anybody involves much more than just saying words to them. According to those who know more than I do, seven percent of our communication is saying our words, thirty-eight percent is how we say our words, and fifty-five percent is how we look while saying our words. 

Much of what we speak goes unsaid and instead is conveyed through our body. Facial expressions, and how and where we position our bodies in relation to the other person, speak volumes about what we are trying to communicate. By looking at someone while they are talking to me, I know if they are bored, interested or lying.  

Just knowing I had to make this phone call with someone who lived somewhere else who would or would not understand me enough to fix my problem, made me sign with exhaustion. But I sat down and punched in the phone number anyway.


“Hello, could you repeat what you just said?” 

“Hello this is Adamintulsaoklahomahowcanihelpyou?”

“Listen, I cannot understand a word you are saying. You sound like you are inside a tin can.”

“Can you hear me?”

“I can hear you, I just can’t understand a word you are saying.”

“Well, you are probably hearingmysouthcarolinaaccent.”

“Yes, well, if you speak slowly, then I can understand you better.”

And so began my conversation with Adam, who worked from home on a headset in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and who’d once lived in South Carolina, but had never been to Idaho. 

At first, our conversation was a strain and I had to work hard to adapt my ear to his Southern accent as well as the echo from his headset. But, as he slowed his speech, and I explained my problem, we heard and understood each other. After thirty minutes or so, he’d solved my problem and I was a happy customer.

 Even though I hadn’t walked into the local office and spoken with a customer service representative native to our region, Adam helped me tune my hearing to his unfamiliar voice long enough for him to help me. Phew! 

Why bother hearing what you can’t understand? Hearing is easy, understanding is harder, but it is worth the effort since communication is key to getting any problem solved. 

Why Bother Being Realistic?

Why Bother Being Realistic?

What is something everyone lacks and yet wishes to possess?  I’m just taking a guess here, but as human beings, I think we’d like to possess full knowledge and understanding before making any decision so that we could prevent something “bad” or “wrong” from happening in our lives. I know I’m taking a risk here with this next statement but, I don’t think I am the only one who has attempted to reach toward that pinnacle called perfection only to fall down empty handed. 

If Only

If only I’d known, then I would have….If only I’d known then I could have… Hindsight is 20/20, but we don’t live our lives in a backward motion. Instead, we live them, step by step, going in a forward motion.  Looking back to learn from our blunder, an error in judgement or misstep is one thing. Looking back to devalue, deflate or depreciate ourselves only gives our inner critic fodder that we later hurl at ourselves. Regret, like quicksand, is an infinite sinkhole pulling us down, not forward. 

What If

But, what if we kept walking, steadily, step by step, in a forward motion, glancing back, only with the intent to gain wisdom from the blunders? What if we were to have sane and realistic expectations of ourselves and others?  What if we knew that perfection was not the goal and remembered that we are human beings, not superheroes? If we live within our limits, then we know we cannot swoop into someone’s life to “fix” the “wrong” and make everything “right as rain.”  Neither can they do that for us.  Even at our best, we are awkward, imperfect and only guessing at which step might be the next best one to take in life.  

Even Though

We all possess an expiration date. Our days are numbered and time slips or ticks into the future for each of us. Though our humanness has its limitations and we cannot see into the future to prevent our next blunder, we do not lack a wide variety of opportunities to grab a hold of with each new day.

If you are reading this post, that means that today you are alive. Like me, you get to put one wobbly foot in front of the other and walk in a forward motion. Today we have the choice to laugh or cry with someone, hug or hurt someone, accept or reject kindness from someone.  

None of us are any less in the dark about what lies ahead, after all, we are only human. But as humans, we have the choice to choose gratitude over morose and hope instead of despair. In doing so, we hold each other steady.  

Why bother to be realistic? It is worth it to live within the realm of our humanity. After all, that is where all humans live. Sometimes we just have to remind each other.