Are you Struggling to be Understood? You are not Alone.
I got hold of Thomas Erikson’s Surrounded by Idiots book and I couldn’t resist realizing the source of the struggles that I have been battling with over people’s failure to understand me. At some point in my life, I, like the self-employed man in one of the stories in the book, thought everybody around me was an idiot.
Well, don’t ask me who the true idiot was in this case given I allowed the purported ‘idiots’ into my life in the first place and even allowed them to stay. The point I came to realize and one I continue exploring to date has to do with the failure of people to understand me as well as my failure to understand others.
To understand others (as well as others understand us), we need to know that we are influenced by a myriad of factors which in turn determine how we perceive communication. We should first understand that as much as we may desire, in a perfect scenario for instance, to have people understand whatever we communicate to them in the very exact manner we ideate matters in our heads, it is impossible.
The perfect scenario can only be possible in a situation where we are with people who think and behave the same way as ourselves. But remember how we choose to understand how and what other people communicate with and to us is a composition of such things as genetics, what our core values are, our attitudes and the environment in which we are brought up, including where the communication is taking place.
The composition of these things is what I call behaviour. Interestingly, any time I struggle to understand somebody I would relate their behaviour with the failure of communication to take place. A personal example would help illustrate this.
One time I met this girl whom I clicked with right away. I manoeuvred my way around and managed to interact with her. She noted that I was a funny person and liked to joke. If you asked me If I am funny and that I joke, I don’t think so. But this lady did attach my communication to a perceived behaviour, how she conceived of me that first time we interacted.
Then came the day I let the rooster crow and confessed how I liked her. She laughed off my ‘funny joke.’ But I was very serious. And just like that, a very important communication was lost and perhaps an opportunity of a lifetime. To me, the lady didn’t understand me, or should we say I didn’t understand her as well. Why did it happen so?
Core Values and Understanding
Core values are those principles so deeply embedded in us that it is almost impossible to change them. We learn core values from our carers from a very young age as well as from school and we carry these along with us through the different phases of life.
For instance, the value of respect is deeply embedded in me to the extent that I respect people’s decisions and choices very seriously. So, if I think that somebody doesn’t understand me, I will try to explain myself better and if it does not work because the person chose to understand things their way, I respectfully disagree with them and let them be. That is exactly what I did with my lady friend. I respected her choices and how she decided to ‘understand’ me.
Attitude and Understanding
It could be that much as I can try to explain myself, the attitude of the other person (or my attitude) can hinder us from understanding each other. This could be due to the perspectives we have developed as a result of past experiences. This means that even future experiences can affect our attitudes in that future as well.
In the example I gave, maybe the first interaction I developed with the lady compared to a similar experience she might have had before where the person ended up being not serious and that affected how this girl perceived seriousness from that point onwards. Anything like or close to what she alluded to as ‘not serious,’ simply ended at that irrespective of how serious the other person could be in their expression from deep within themselves.
Understanding and perception
It should thus be understood that what people around us see is how we have deliberately chosen to act. What we also see of other people is what they have chosen to unmask for us. And these are determined by our personalities and the setting (environment).
To understand each other properly, it is prudent to understand our behaviours and relate them to our personalities and the setting in which we find ourselves while the communication is taking place. That way, we can figure people out beyond the superficial persona that people put.
To effectively do this, we must get rid of personal prejudices and pre-conceived judgments, cultivate the right and positive attitudes, and appreciate the context we find ourselves in and how our core values should (not be changed) be dynamically adapted to fit in.
So, if you are struggling to be understood or understand others, remember you are not alone. Keep working yourself out to appreciate that we are all different and that we should seek to learn of people more than the superficial forms we see of them right away.