There are a multitude of reasons that lead to misunderstandings. And whether we like to admit it or not, often times they have to do with our own perception of the situation. Many times we are making assumptions about what the other person does or doesn’t know or understand, which may not be correct, and the other person may then get frustrated or feel insulted. There are those people who often assume that a straight-forward question or statement is somehow an attack or criticism of them when it was not intended to be, and they react according to how that is making them feel (I discuss this in my post titled “Over-Interpreting”). There could be perceived animosity because of the person’s tone of voice or how we hear them say it in our heads when we are reading what they wrote. With some people, it is difficult to tell if they are being sarcastic and/or humorous or really mean what they are saying. And of course, there is always the possibility that what we are saying or writing is not being interpreted in the same way as what we are trying to convey, either because we are not being as clear as we think we are, or simply because there is often more than one way to interpret things. There are other reasons as well, but these are the ones I seem to have the most experience with in my life.
Listening to what someone is saying or reading what they have written without all the negative filters can be very difficult for some people. They may not even realize they are doing it, or if they do, they may not want to admit it, and they may not be willing to or know how to do things differently. Once some of these habits are formed, they are very challenging to break.
It amazes me how easy it is to think negative thoughts sometimes and how difficult it can be to remain positive, but I think that ties in with our expectations and assumptions. It seems the more negative experiences you have with a person, the more apt you are to interpret their words and actions through a filter of negativity. And if you grew up in an environment full of criticism and bitterness, then chances are much greater that you are going to view things with a negative perspective. When more than one person is guilty of letting their negative filters cloud their perception, things tend to escalate even more quickly. Sometimes I get eyes being rolled and frustrated facial expressions from my husband before a single word comes out of my mouth. I think he assumes I am going to scold him or something every time I speak to him, so as soon as it looks like I’m about to say something he reacts negatively in anticipation, which certainly doesn’t help matters.
The best thing to do, of course, is to give people the benefit of the doubt, but for many of us, those negative assumptions and thoughts are quick to pop into our heads, which puts us on the defensive. Unfortunately, this is one of those things for which there is not an easy fix. It’s a whole mind set, which is very difficult to change. Part of it comes down to being a good listener in general but also listening with an open mind and not a pre-conceived notion of what the other person is really trying to say, which I will address in my next post.
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