• David Unger, PhD

Misunderstanding




I imagine we all have had moments when we have been misunderstood by others and have misunderstood what others are saying. Do you think that happens mostly because you aren’t listening carefully enough or not talking carefully enough or is it something else? Probably sometimes it is on you, other times on them and occasionally all parties are not paying as close attention as needed. Most of us would rather blame the other person for the misunderstanding, which may even be valid. It actually could be their fault. But, that is not going to help.If you want to decrease the number of misunderstandings you are involved in you are going to have to make it happen.


Therapists like people to take 100% responsibility for making their relationships function optimally. If you make it your responsibility to have fewer misunderstandings you will effort more at making it so. As frustrated, upset and annoyed as you may be, if you let go of pointing a finger and aim for understanding things more completely things ought to improve. It is tempting to give in to venting your displeasure and I am sure we have all logged in some time doing that. I am not saying not to vent as there are times it seems nigh on to impossible to stifle your irritation at not being heard more clearly. Yet, I imagine we have all learned that voicing those irritations usually evokes an emotional reaction from the other person and soon you are off into a dispute which will just prolong the conversation and rile you up even more.


If you think you are not being understood or if you think you do not understand what is being said just say that and ask for greater clarification. I like to include this statement periodically throughout my conversations and certainly at the end of the conversation: “Let me make sure I understand everything correctly.” Then I state what I consider the significant portions of the conversation. They will either agree and that will be that or they will modify/delete/add. Then I re-cap those points so I am sure we are on the same page. Once you both agree, carry on.


Of course it is not this easy. Feelings can easily get bruised whenever you have a conversation. The better job you can do of initially letting the person know you want to clearly understand what they are saying and its importance and value to you and them, the more likely they will be to focus on your mutual understanding. If you can convey that interest both when listening and when speaking it will form a general mission statement of how you want to converse – you are communicating in order to be understood. Sure you would like to be agreed with, but at minimum you want to be heard and understood.There will be trials and errors, hurt feelings and a growing sense of intimacy.


When it comes to intimate relationships it is good to remind each other that you are on the same team. You can have differences and challenges but the goal is for the team to thrive.

#misunderstanding #100responsibility #listening #team

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