As human beings, we harbor an innate yearning for understanding.
This understanding can appear to us in a variety of forms--from conceptual to emotional. We often mention how parents, siblings, significant others, and other people who cross our path "do not understand" us. The claim of being misunderstood is one of intrigue, as language is the foundation and creation of understanding amongst individuals. Our ability to verbally communicate with one another and display a variety of emotions and ideas via tone, diction, and body language allows for an expensive scope of self-expression. Human interaction via speech is a fascinating thing.
Transversely, it also has been said that "language is the source of misunderstandings." This particular type of understanding is less rooted in concept, and more founded on context. The way each of us thinks, speaks, reacts to and interacts with others determines whether we find ourselves to be of accord with like-minded individuals, or not. When other people are not on our wavelength, we tend to view that as a type of misunderstanding. As my grandfather would say, "a failure to communicate."
Recently, I was discussing a personal problem with my 14-year-old sister, and in noticing how distraught I seemed, she rubbed my back and said
"I may not understand, but I can listen."
That, my friends, is what the rest of us have been missing. Ironically, that is what we have been misunderstanding. We get angry at others and create a commotion because sometimes we are simply looking for the wrong thing. More often than not, when we complain about being misunderstood, it is not so much that we are looking for someone to know what we are saying, as much as we are looking for someone to listen to what we have to say. Language is the source of misunderstanding in that sometimes there is too much talking, and not enough listening going on. Previously I mentioned that it is how we use language that causes misunderstanding, and I find it to be true. When we overuse ours and don't tune into the unique language the other person is speaking, we lose the message they are trying to convey to us.
We don't want someone to understand, we need someone who will listen.
We need someone to let us rant and rave and let out every little thing we have let build up inside--good or bad--so long that it makes us feel like we are going to explode. For once, you are allotted a moment to speak that is all your own without interjection. True understanding can only begin to develop and later evolve through this process. If four people are talking all at once, nobody understands and nobody listens, either. But if one person gets their one moment to express themselves, and allows their conversation partner(s) to respond in kind, you will find that a productive conversation arises from listening closely, deriving meaning, and addressing what was mentioned.
This tactic goes for all things from hearing how someone's day at work was to working out an argument with a loved one. In recognizing that listening, even when you do not understand right away, will eventually bring you understanding, you are doing yourself and others a service. Learning how to listen is also learning how to have compassion. Maybe you "agree" with what you are being told, maybe you do not. The point is that you are listening, which is helping you to develop compassion towards others and positive ways to relate to your loved ones.
This part is hard, because when we listen and hear something we do not like, we may have an abrasive response. The best way to combat that is by letting someone fully explain themselves, even if you may not like how the conversation started out. By fully listening, you can have the time to process your response. Taking a moment to yourself and letting your friend know "I'm thinking about what you just said and I want to respond in the best way I know how" is never a bad idea. All valuable relationships take time and dedication.
Being gentle with others may not be easy, but it is worth it. Try to listen, even if you do not understand. Sometimes we all just need someone. Be that someone, and you'll find you get your someone right back.