How to understand

| Way of life | 4 Comments

During the average working day I sometimes find myself in situations where there seems to be some kind of mismatch in communication. This can range from the very trivial, leading nowhere which does not matter, all the way to the very critical, leading to a heated escalation of emotions. The core problem is not the disagreement but rather the misunderstanding about what one is actually discussing. Sometimes certain aspects of the problem are imagined, tones of voice implied and words and sentences incorrectly translated.

The first thing I try to do is understand what the other person does not understand and why there is this obstacle. The best way to approach this is to be open and honest. The deadliest killer of relationships is to assume that the other person understands you or keep on pretending that you understand what the other person is saying even though you sense that you have missed some vital point.

We are bizarre creatures who have the tendency to fight a win-or-lose battle when it is very likely and also to both sides' best advantage rather to seek out a win-win result. This win-win result is ironically enough easier to reach than having to fight it out. There are also much fewer cuts and bruises.

There was this guy named Carl Rogers who developed a theory called the "actualizing tendency." This theory focuses on a single guiding force where every life-form develops its potentials to the fullest extent possible. This same person also taught: "that which is most personal is most general."

What this means to me is that the more truly authentic you are and the more genuine and open in your expressions and gestures, the safer people feel and the more naturally they can express themselves near you. Especially those related to inner thoughts and personal experiences, even if it means exposing self-doubt. This so-called "actualizing tendency" extends outwards from your soul and even encompasses those near you, feeding the other person's spirit. Genuine creativity springs forth, stimulating efficient communication and eventually even producing new insights (ref. Stephen R. Covey, paraphrased by me).

So when conflict threatens to arise, this is more than likely due to poor communication which in turn has its roots in the inability to understand why and what the other person does not understand.

Sincerely try to understand the other side from your heart, balancing emotions with rational thought. This is a difficult yet noble path to follow. Put aside exaggerated emotions just enough so that they guide rather than drown you. Temper the overly rational ways of thinking with the stuff of emotions.

Open up and be genuine.


If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? In the scientific sense, yes. But is that sound communicated to anyone? No. Hmm... So if a person talks, are they communicating? Well, they are definitely making a sound, but it should be very clear that the ultimate key component in communication is a listener. There must be someone to listen to the sound or words. If two parties remain outlandishly heated in conversation, then there most likely is no communication occuring. It will never be until at least one party decides to start to actually listen to the other that communication will start to occur. I believe that your point agrees with what I have said. And I believe that your "actualizing tendency" is what can help someone realize that they need to back off and start to listen so that the communication can begin to occur.

This tree-falling business is an interesting variation on the theme of communication. You can also put it another way. If you open your mouth and make a sound, does it make any sense if there is not another person around to hear your various words, intonations and other subtle reactions? Don't know, but could be.

Last week my department had everyone do their DiSC profile as a fun activity. DiSC tells you what kind of personality you have, basically. It turned out that I'm a "Creative" type and I'm more Conscientious than Dominating (my two defining characteristics.) The woman who hosted this event said this could be a great tool to use on teams so that everyone would understand how to deal with the others. When I learned what my teammates were, I suddenly realized that it makes it so much easier to understand why people do things they way they do. I really hoped we'd actually utilize this new knowledge of each other, but come Monday, things were right back to normal. I'm attempting to follow through, and it does work to some extent, but if the others aren't responding in kind, it's only benefitting me. At least I'm making the effort, I guess.

I think what it is is that people find it difficult to consider the way others are because they're so concerned about keeping themselves safe at work. I'd love to say I feel totally safe and secure at work, but I don't. Companies find it far too easy to simply "let go" the people they don't need at the moment, knowing full-well that in 6 months they'll be hiring others to fill those same spots. I think that what has happened is that the employees now have to worry more about keeping their own jobs than being productive in a way that helps others. If you can leave a little info out that you tell one person, that puts you that much ahead of them. It's sad, but I see it everyday. The workplace is like a very mundane battlefield. Instead of firing shots, coworkers chip away at your foundation whenever they can. And if you don't in return, you could be next to see yours crumble away. I try not to do this, because it makes me feel like a really awful person, but sometimes someone you trusted does something that undermines everything you've strived to accomplish. It's awful. It makes work so unpleasant.

Personally, I think we should all follow the advice of Bill & Ted: "Be excellent to each other."

Sure Tom, learning about personalities and gaining insights is only useful if you are able to practice what you have learned. The real world is often hard to deal with and trying to approach things more realistically is a daunting task if the others around you refuse to be realistic at all. I firmly believe that it is not as bad as you say where everyone is "chipping away" at each other behind their backs. This is an illusion that everyone is propagating, if you know what I mean. Your work is only unpleasant if you think it is or let the way others pretend to act get to you in the end. Be excellent to other then and think of nothing else. Nice tip, thanks.

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