What planet are they on?!?! There is not one of us who has not asked this question at least once in our lives. Sometimes understanding other people can seem like the most impossible task in the world. It doesn’t matter who it is or your relationship to them. It could be the teacher that sets the impossible to understand assignment, the guy who never contributes at work, the girlfriend who insists on buying another pair of shoes or the friend or child that does the exact opposite of what you believe to be reasonable behaviour, sometimes other people are just hard to understand.
Infact not understanding other people is one of the most common day to day problems we all have as humans. No matter where we are, how we live or what we believe, this is a life challenge that we all have in common. And it is also a challenge that we all have to overcome because like or not we need other people.
But when your communication with another person is as effective as static on a radio it can have seriously negative results on your life. (You know the scenario in my brain’s cinema. In the background one long beeeeep whilst both people make increasingly larger incomprehensible gestures at each other, a situation made absolutely more ridiculous that they can’t understand each other because you are actually speaking the same language. You know it, you’ve been there.) Why does communication often go so wrong? There are many answers to that question however often or not, the answer is because we have an emotional investment. And it’s those emotions investments that create misunderstandings.
And that my friends is actually good news! If it’s our emotions getting involved then we can do something about it. How ? By using Emotional Intelligence (which in a nutshell can be defined a the ability to identify and manage our own emotions and the emotions of others). Emotional intelligence techniques are vast and many (try typing emotional intelligence into Youtube, Amazon or Google you will see what I mean). So I am not going to go too deeply here and now. I prefer to share with you (and remind myself !) 5 ways of using emotional intelligence to help understand someone else, even when they seem to live on a completely different planet.
Remember we aren’t all the same: It sounds simple but how often do we forget that people don’t function like we do. This is especially true of people we are very close to like a lover or a partner. Just because you eat together, sleep together, train together or work together does not mean anyone you know is the same as you or has 100% the same perspective as you. We all see things differently. Infact one of life’s universal truths is that no-one will ever have an exact carbon copy of your world view. Accept it and move on.
Not understanding is your problem not theirs: In the world of not understanding people we are fantastic at putting the blame on to other for it. Even more so if we get back up. For example many people can misunderstand someone who is chronically shy as “strange, aloof thinks she is above us”. If you don’t understand someone it’s more about you than it is about them. Take responsibility for your role, it is not the world’s job to respond to you, it’s your job to find out how to respond to the world.
Check in with yourself: Understanding ourselves better helps us remove barriers to understanding others. What do I mean by this? I mean that when you find yourself not understanding someone then figure out where your emotional investment is and how is that blocking your understanding. By doing this you will not only check in with yourself but you will also learn the habits of your own emotional reactions
Ask don’t assume: The more we ask the more we learn. Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups. We often believe we understand when we don’t or worse pretend we understand when we don’t. What would be worse for you telling someone about a serious problem at work for example and them pretending to understand or them showing you respect by asking what you mean. And don’t wait to be asked if you understand ask questions, investigate, the more you do this the more you know, the more you know the more you understand.
Experience more and improve your empathy: We all know that to understand other people we need to use empathy. And I mean true empathy here not the aw poor you, true empathy is where we truly attempt to shift our perspective into seeing from someone else’s perspective However if you don’t try new things you have a limited base to start out from. Imagining emotions or perspectives someone else would feel or have from situations you have never experienced is hard. The more you experience the wider your empathy database will be. So get out in the world and experience as much as you can!
“People are strange” sang Jim Morrison (The Doors and if you don’t know this song where have you been, go directly to youtube. Now. I can wait….) and that means all of us. We are a weird and wonderful bunch that make up this species of humankind. The golden rules of understanding each other are like all the best things simple;
Respond, don’t react, be honest with everyone including yourself and be interested in each other.
If you can master these and use the guidelines above you are always going to be on the right path to connecting and understanding anyone from any planet albeit the person you sleep beside, the stranger on a bus or even the weird teacher whose crazy assignment that makes no sense!
Have fun seeing how many people you can better understand this week and see if you don’t understand yourself more by the weekend too !
Happy Monday <3