Context gives meaning to help us get the right feeling. Man is a meaning-making machine. While we can’t stop it or control it, we can influence it in the right direction. Blaming others for not understanding us will not solve the problem. There is something that we can do that will help others understand us better.
In a recent training, one of the delegates wanted herself to be excused from something the whole group wanted to do. While it was optional to participate, still she took the time to explain why she wanted to be excluded. As soon as she did, we were all more understanding of her and gladly remained gracious towards her request. Else, perhaps each would have assumed a reason or made a judgment/meaning that may or may not have been in her favor. And by explaining, she didn’t have to disclose all her life’s details. She just mentioned that she had a lot going on right now. And that was enough in that setting.
Some of us are very tight-lipped when it comes to our life in the name of privacy. We don’t consider it important for us to explain the why behind what we do. So we land up being misunderstood. That’s the price to be paid. However that’s not the worst part, the worst part is we hold others responsible, or the world to be insensitive and incapable of understanding for our lack of commitment towards make ourselves understood.
We say no to people easily, we reject proposals, we refuse invitations to connect, we don’t reply to calls and messages – and after doing all that – we push the other person under the bus saying they don’t have the capacity or maturity to understand us.
It’s not that we have to divulge every single detail of our personal life in order to be understood. But it is helpful to have some amount of self-disclosure that will help others get an idea or context to us so that they understand us better. Don’t decide beforehand, who deserves to know and who doesn’t. We never know who’s capable of understanding how much unless we give them a chance.
If we have someone who repeatedly fails to understand despite several attempts from our end to explain, then there are 2 things we could consider –
- the way we are explaining isn’t working so try something else.
- Or, this person has some disconnect with us for which they refuse to want to understand us.
So, we can either try and sort out the differences, or if the other person is not open for it, stop trying too hard to explain since they have made up their mind to not mend it or understand it further.
But a vast majority of people demonstrate the capacity to understand better if given the appropriate context. No one knows your story unless you say it. And no one can tell your story better than you too!
- Also, this is not only about personal disclosure. This is about generally giving a context. For example, if you have the decision making authority, it would be good to give the context of where you are coming from and what makes you take such a decision. Doing so will help people come along with you more willingly.
- Or, if you have to say no to someone, give them an understanding of what makes you say no.
- If you have a disconnect, help them understand why you are unable to get their point.
- If somethings don’t go too well with you, enable them to understand what about it triggers such a response from you.
- Love is another area where we sometimes take it for granted. We assume that if someone loves us, they have to understand us at all costs, whether or not we make any effort towards making ourselves understood. Well, glad if they do. And they may be doing so for the most part. But how about making it easy for them a bit? Share what’s happening so that they understand more easily. The reason is, everyone has a ton going on in their life. If we are expecting others to understand without us putting in any efforts, we are expecting them to drop their lives and spend time guessing what may be happening in our lives and then understand. Sometimes, people can do that, at other times, they can’t, depending on how much is going on at their end.
People don’t have to be of a certain intellectual caliber to understand us. We just have to leverage our emotional intelligence to take the responsibility of making ourselves understood. Having rapport with close friends is easy. If we say ‘only my close friends truly know who I am and understand me’ – that means we may be a closed book for everyone else. Too cautious, too guarded, and perhaps too afraid of being judged too. Operating out of much fear can be detrimental to our mental and physical well-being. And for those who fear being judged, others are going to judge anyway – if you provide the context, they might make better judgments/meanings that understand you.
Besides, imagine the time and effort that you spend in giving explanations and justifications to clear a misunderstanding! It takes much less on your part to proactively provide the context beforehand.