The Key to Being Understood
Feeling listened to and understood is one of the most highly sought, yet highly elusive aspects of any relationship. When another person is able to put themselves in our place and truly see things from our perspective, it can make us feel validated, accepted and worthwhile. But, why is it so difficult to achieve something that is so genuinely fulfilling and so universally desired. If we all seek it and find it extremely rewarding, what keeps us from offering it to one another, especially those who are most important to us?
In order to offer that kind of acceptance and understanding requires that we put our own desires in second place. The humility and self-sacrifice required to makes another person’s concerns the priority do not come naturally. As a matter of fact, it goes against most of our most basic human instincts for self-preservation and survival. It can even invoke a certain amount of fear that we will never have our needs met if we consider the other person above ourselves.
The truth is, there is a certain amount of risk involved. But, risk is an inherent part of any relationship and, no matter how much we try, we can never control all the risks. When we decide to willingly take the risks of being the one who listens first, who makes the needs of the other person the priority and who honestly wants to understand the other person’s perspective, there is a huge payoff: Trust.
When we truly listen and seek to understand, we build trust in our relationship. As that trust grows, it then becomes less threatening for the other person to listen to our needs. It motivates them to want to understand our point of view. The irony is that, most of the time, once we truly see circumstances from the other person’s perspective, many of the things we were so focused on and thought were so critical may not seem like such a big deal, after all.
And, if we still have valid concerns we want to express, the other person is now much more willing to listen without being defensive and dismissive. In the end, you can both feel understood and grow trust in your relationship if you take the initiative to listen to their needs first.
Larry Deavers is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker & Executive Director of Family Counseling Service of West Alabama.