“Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood” lyrics from Love Potion #9
Being misunderstood creates a complicated series of emotions. Frustration, confusion, anger, sadness cascade around inside a confused mind. How can I be more clear? How can I express myself in a way that can be understood? Understanding is peace – recognition feels so good, and when a communication is received through a clear filter, hearts open, joy arises. Layer the filter with insecurities, resentments and bad memories and misunderstandings can build to a crescendo of confusion.
“Why did you say that? Why didn’t you say it a different way? Why Why Why?” Many abusive conversations start this way – it has just occurred to me that those conversations in which we are told (usually angrily) that we should have done something differently are in fact abusive – since none of us can change the past. What would kindness say? I’m delving into some other ways to communicate that will be more effective, more kind and way more understanding.
There are many systems who aim is to remedy this kind of situation. Most of them would recommend staying away from the written word, as inflection calls for assumption, which is the beginning of a slippery slope and a downward slide. I love the book “The Four Agreements” which proposes a simple set of rules for staying on the positive side of discussions and conversations.
“Don’t Make Assumptions” is a rule that can often clarify misunderstandings. And oh how assumptions can multiply in a texting barrage. Oh dear! What is the remedy? To ask for clarity, to be open to receiving it instead of clinging to the original assumption, which has come from a clouded place – often dark. If we are going to make assumptions, it might be best to assume loving motives – albeit this can cause romantic confusion from time to time. Once again, just simple clarity can alleviate many kerfluffles. Simplicity rocks!
“Don’t take anything personally” – is another “rule” that is often forgotten. All of us have a unique perspective, a personal view. We can sometimes see clearly, but vision is once again clouded by our personalities and histories. Finding a way through to an open hearted perspective does bring us to the Promised Land of love. Bringing this teaching close to heart has helped me many times. “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are” said Anais Nin, in a fit of wisdom. “you, you, you” says the ego – if only “you” did something differently, I would be able to love you. Sigh, squirm, deflect, resist….
These two suggestions come up often for me. They can effectively guide me back to a place of understanding that includes seeing myself and others with compassion and love. If I still can’t get there I can turn to NVC or Non-violent communication. That system is based on the idea that criticizing and judging others (if only you had ________, I would be ok) is violence. It certainly isn’t the path of love or kindness. I haven’t met a person yet who could turn back the clock and re-do the past. It is a superpower many of us may wish for from time to time, but what we have is this moment, this opportunity, this love. NVC says to speak of feelings, instead of our judgements of other. “When you did X, I felt Y” as opposed to “why didn’t you do that differently, what’s wrong with you, now I’m mad”… And this is easier than it sounds, most of us have underdeveloped vocabularies for feelings due to centuries of emotional repression and interrelations that are based on anger and rage. NVC includes a handy reference guide to feelings – and a reminder that when we say “I feel like you are ________” is not a feeling, but a judgement.
I recently learned that when we say “I feel” it is most likely to express genuine emotion. When we say “I feel like” then the contemplation has returned to the mental realms of criticism and closed hearted judgements. These are fine points, I know as we stumble along on the day to day experience of living life as a learning process heading towards love. And just as an unfinished painting doesn’t include the finer details, an unfinished comprehension is the same. Filling in the details, being aware of the finer points, paints a different picture. Be an artist! Make your life be your masterpiece of understanding. It’s more fun that way, I am sure of it!
and then, when all else fails – there is a beautiful system called Ho’o’ponopono which goes something like this:
I’m sorry, I love you, please forgive me, thank you….
repeat, repeat, repeat until you get it right….