5 things to do when you are being misunderstood

1.  Seek to listen to the other person: they will tell you what they don’t understand.  This is one of the hardest things to do, because most people only want to “fix it fast”.  Sometimes there is not a fast fix.  Sometimes what looks like a fast fix, is only a temporary reprieve.  If you will really learn to listen to the other person, it puts you in a more receptive state of mind.  Active listening engages parts of your will, which help facilitate cooperation, trust, and concern for the other person.  It requires your will, and discipline, because sometimes it is hard to listen to things that are upsetting.  Active listening is, in fact, an act of love.

Do not think you can listen long enough to dismantle the other person’s argument.  That is not listening at all.  You must listen, openly and patiently, so you can really understand them.  Listening to win an argument will never help you understand the other person, let alone care for them.  Quite the contrary.  On the other hand, if you listen with a teachable heart, then you will be well on your way toward understanding the other and being understood yourself.

James 1:19 “…everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

2.  Ask questions: this helps you identify your own faults.  Asking honest questions, without a bad attitude or an agenda, is a part of active listening.  When you are being misunderstood, you are more likely to misunderstand the other person, so, in order to gain clarity, asking good questions is paramount.  Negative emotions often well up, when we are being misunderstood.  Some of these are normal and natural, but some of them are a product of our personal brokenness.  Men and women often handle misunderstandings differently.  Every relationship (couples, friendships, bonds of affection between siblings) are different, because no two people respond exactly identically to the same stimuli.

Asking questions helps you zero in, not only on the point of confusion, but on the personality makeup of the other person.  Once again, to help the other person better understand you, you had better work at understanding them.  Often times, misunderstandings grow out of two unlike people seeing the world only through their own personal lenses.  Not only does asking questions help you understand the other, it helps you escape your narrow focus and gain a new perspective.

Luke 11:9-13  “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

3.  Refine your particulars:  After listening, and seeking to understand the other person, you will have clarity of mind to respond with grace.  Now that you have heard the other out, and have asked questions to help you better understand them, you can restate your points in a better, more others centered way.  Having listened, you will now own the right to be heard.  Having asked questions, you are now equipped to tailor your response specifically to their needs.

Personally, I try to speak my peace, 2 or 3 different ways, using different words, expressions, and examples.  I have a high need to be understood, so I take responsibility for the other person, and attempt to  state my points as many different ways as possible.  I must do this without getting angry!   In any dispute, I must take responsibility for my own emotions.  No one has the power to “make me angry”, because my emotions belong to me; and they must not rule over me, but I must rule over them.

Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

 

4.  Agree, when you can:  This builds trust and shows a commitment to moving forward. If, the other person makes a valid point or dismantles a part of your argument, you must recognize and admit this.  Sometimes I have been in a heated debate, and my assertions end up falling apart.  Now I’m left with the decision to swallow my pride and give way to the truth of what they are saying, or double down and try to save face.  The former will result in manifold benefits to me (conflict resolution, humility, seeing the truth, replacement of bad feelings with good ones).  Whereas the latter will lead me deeper into the misunderstanding which caused the relational rift in the first place.

I make it a priority to agree with the other person’s arguments, when and where I can.  For me, it is not a tactic, it is merely assenting to the truth, when the truth is plainly evident.  I want to be on the side of truth, and, incidentally, the truth is usually on the side of reconciliation.  I try to affirm the other person’s feelings, even if I cannot see the logic in their arguments or the reasonableness of their critiques.  Often times, I must make the mental effort to see past their arguments, which may or may not be cogent, in order to empathize with their pain.  I say, “I hear what you are saying, and I want to protect your heart from having those bad feelings, so I will do thus and thus…”.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

5.  Tell the other how much you love, respect, and value them:  If they feel cherished, they will try harder to reconcile.  A good way to get the other person to understand you, is if they perceive that you really do care about them.  There’s the old saw, “People won’t care what you know, until they know that you care.”  But, there is a lot of wisdom in that simple axiom.  Mutual love and appreciation for the other will tear down any barriers of misunderstanding, or at least it will render the barriers inconsequential.  Even if a mutual understanding cannot be reached, the power of loving friendship overcomes the dissonance a squabble may produce.

I have found that I can disagree with someone, who really cares about me, and the disagreement is no longer an issue between us.  No two people can ever hope to perfectly understand each other, but they can love and trust each other.  And, that love and trust, renders all misunderstandings as small affairs of no account.  It is really a beautiful thing that being in right relationship is actually more important, and gets us further down the road, than being in perfect agreement.  Simply affirming to the other person that our failure to reach a common consensus will not hinder our good relationship will close the gap on the very disagreement which made the affirmation a necessity.

Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

 

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Scifi: The favorite genre of the “disenchanted West”

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/06/why-the-west-loves-sci-fi-and-fantasy-a-cultural-explanation/276816/

The above article is full of anecdotes as to why we in the West enjoy Science Fiction.  I can say that some of these points apply to me, because I do love science fiction.  But, even as I perceive the world as “knowably rational and systematic” I don’t remove God or the other higher order persons from my worldview.  In fact, because I believe in God, the world becomes more knowable, rational, and systematic.  Also, because I have God’s Word, the Bible, I have a reliable map by which to navigate this world.  Furthermore, as a Christian, I am filled with God’s Holy Spirit, which leads into all truth, so that I can be more than a conqueror!  There is now no longer any condemnation, neither any lack of sacred astonishment!

Westerns and Scifi are so popular in the US, we created a “space western” called Firefly, which lead to a feature film called Serenity.

I am reminded of a conversation between science fiction and fantasy author, C.S. Lewis and his two academe friends, in which they discussed the nuances of children’s fantasies, space odysseys, and time travel stories.  The main driver of Lewis’ argument is that SciFi gives you a creative landscape in which to explore new stories.  This explains the success of the “Spaghetti westerns”; with their cowboys, Indians, cattle rustlers, and hopes of striking gold. Americans 50 years ago were enamored with Westerns, because it depicted a new, different, exciting way of life. The stories you could tell, set in the old west, were tinged with just a little bit of wonder. Scifi is now what the western was then.

(In point of fact, Mark Twain gained his first commercial success, not in books or articles, but in telling about his travels to exotic Hawaii.  He lectured to sold out theaters, displaying photos and artifacts as he wove tales of the Polynesian paradise.  Later, he would journey to Israel, so that he could bring back stories on which to lecture, thereby duplicating the success he’d had on the “Hawaiian circuit”.)

SciFi removes the known boundaries, and once again leaves men free to speculate.  Before men had gained such vast knowledge of our own earth, they speculated about what mermaids and sea monsters might be roving the ocean depths, or else, what elves, giants, dragons, and unicorns the neighboring woods might harbor.  They had less knowledge of the terrain, and as a result their imaginations ran wild.  Now that we have seemingly endless knowledge of our planet, we must look to the heavens when we want to engage our imaginations.  The heavens are full of mysterious places, alien worlds, angelic creatures, and the intangible ephemera of God.

Our culture, on the other hand, values the tangibles in life; assets, like money, possessions, and personnel.  Whenever our culture values the intangibles, like math, emotions, and ideas, it is generally for the purpose of proving a point or producing a profit. We have relegated the knowledge that intangibles give us to a second class status, which in turn renders the Intangibles as no longer the best way to build pathos.  As a result of our cultural rejection of intangibles life in the west is formulaic. We think we know the Universe.  We think we know ourselves.  We think we know a thing or two about life and love and space/time.  Our lives have become predictable, because we have believed the falsehood that we can, and do, know it all.

Without God in the Universe humans are reduced to little protein accidents; basically we’re no better than conscious, worms with appendages.  If that is all we are, then life is essentially meaningless.  We have lost the wonder, because we abandoned God.  We have lost our sense of awe, because we have reduced the Creation to merely the tangible realities.  We traded the Trinity for taxes and taxis.  We exchanged the truth of God for a lie; and that lie is this, “all there is, is all you can see.”  Even as I write those words a stirring in my heart rings out and asks, “But, what about hope?”  For what hope is there for protein accidents?  What grander designs can there be for we the conscious worms of earth?

Living in a society that excludes God, has robbed us of miracles.  It has cost us our moral conscious, because, without God, we believe that  in the end we can “get away with it”.  It has deprived us of wonder, awe, and the expectation of a great reward.  We are hamsters on a wheel.  Think about it; we go to school to learn, we learn to get a good job, we want a good job, so we can live well, we want to live well so we can have successful kids, we want our kids to be successful so we send them to schools… then the whole cycle starts over again.  It seems pretty redundant, but no one ever bothers to stop and ask “WHY?”. We have removed God from being the central purpose of human endeavors, and that is why we are stuck on this endless cosmic treadmill.  No wonder the Hindi’s invented the concept of Nirvana!  If living a life mired in routine, devoid of spontaneity is so dreadful, who would want to be stuck reincarnating into it for all eternity?

But they didn’t know that God would make a way out.  Not only a way out of eternal boredom, but also a way out of the trifle and tedium of the everyday.  Christians of all people should have hope, because God declares that we shall rule and reign with him throughout all eternity! There’s no room for boredom in the throne room of Heaven. (For a more thorough discussion on Christians and boredom click here! http://godlyculture.com )