Everyone knows the feeling of being misunderstood or misrepresented. But the nature of how realities are created means that we have no control over how others perceive us or our communications. Likewise, they have no control over our interpretations of their words or actions.
What’s notable is, we all get things wrong a shocking amount of the time. If it seems impossible that we could be getting things wrong that often, consider this: almost every case of us being frustrated, angry, sad, disappointed or demeaning, are cases where we don’t really have an issue, but rather we have innocently miscommunicated with someone or some group.
Maybe we could have been clearer. Maybe they missed a point well-made. Either way, that isn’t relevant, the problem is behind us. Our objective is the solution, before us. What is important is to use our negative emotions to cue us to reassess our ultimate objectives.
If we need some form of agreement in order to move forward, the question is: how can we best facilitate that agreement? Rarely are our issues over values.
In almost every case, things boil down to mistakes made due to semantics (we’ve misunderstood their terms), heuristics (we’ve miscalculated something), or knowledge (we’re unaware of an important factor that needs to be considered). All of these things can be cleared up with respectful discussion.
Our problem as emotional egos is that we will see our emotional state as a bad outcome, which we then want to blame on someone. Meanwhile, our soul knows how to see our negative emotions as a signal to take action.
If they’re just a signal, then we’re supposed to have them. And seeing them that way keeps us calm. Those feelings are how we steer our lives. They are our ditches. We want to stay between them by being balanced, and centered.
We will still have an emotional reaction, there is nothing wrong with that if it doesn’t lead to serious abuse of anyone. If we’re forgiving it’s because we understand our emotions differently. We get where they come from and what they’re for. We can even be grateful for them as an aspect of us that helps keep us on track.
If no one is at fault, and we feel relatively calm, then it’s much easier to see another person in a more neutral, or even positive way. If we can, the ideal is to see them as someone we deeply care about.
We need to see them as someone we want no quarrel with, so our mindset will be on finding the fastest way to resolve the conflict. From that headspace we can start asking questions. “What do you mean by ‘this’?” etc. Etc. etc. etc.
A great example is of this is that many times when children think their parents are yelling because they are angry, when the parents know that in reality that they are angry only because of the dread fear they feel over what might have happened to their precious child.
Since many children assume their parents don’t feel fear in the ways kids do, just that clarification about the source of angry words can calm things down. More importantly, it also opens up a universe to the child.
If a child accepts that their parent yelled because they were scared, then every time the parent yells thereafter, the child now has two options as to what’s going on. Dad’s mad, or Dad’s scared. That’s how we all grow wiser. We learn about more ways to interpret more things, and we get less certain about our interpretations about reality.
We should always be prepared to clarify our communications, and we should always stay open to hearing others clarifications once they hear our interpretations. This basic form of respect –the assumption of good will in the other person– would solve almost all of the daily problems that most of us encounter each day.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.