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.