Understanding & making ourselves understood! – The key to quality relationships and success!
Can you give me some advice on how to stay peaceful, when very close people around me are not supporting me at all? They can’t understand me and my mentality. This is a recent request for advice I received from one of my Facebook followers. There have been many such laments from people of various age groups and social situations and I felt it is good to share some thoughts on this for those who need the support.
The first attitude required when going through this challenge is to accept that everyone is ‘right’ from their point of view and conditions of life. When there is a gap or polarity in the points of views then one sees the other persons mentality, opinion, orientation, behaviours etc. ‘wrong’, ‘immoral’, ‘crazy’, ‘stupid’ etc. When there are billions of people living in this world with different mentalities, attitudes and points of view, if we try to make others understand that we are right and they are wrong, then we are on to a futile project that can damage relationships, create hostility and even wars!
So what is the alternative?
We need to first understand the other person’s point of view, however difficult that may be. This requires actively listening not only to the content, but also the intent of the other person. In the example at the beginning of this article, the young man needs to find out why the people close to him are not supportive. He could start a conversation in the lines of; you are one of the closest persons in my life and your point of view is very important to me. I feel you are not supportive of me and I accept it is partly to do with me. It will be really helpful if you can tell me what aspects of my attitudes and behaviours that make you behave this way towards me so that I can try to improve myself.
This can lead to a rich conversation as long as he does not become defensive. The act of understanding the other person’s point of view will help him understand the root causes for the issue at hand. He must remember listening and trying to understand does not imply acceptance of their point of view. He could then acknowledge the aspects that they are correct and ask if they would now like to hear his point of view; most people agree after they have been listened too. At the end of the conversation it is important to agree on areas they can agree on and agree on the areas of dis-agreement and finally agree on the way forward in building the relationships while guarding and respecting the differences.
It is also important to agree on periodical check-ins on how the relationship building project is going. If they had agreed to check-in with each other on a weekly basis how things are going, he could approach the other person and ask, how am I doing in-terms of my behaviours as agreed. He could then give some feedback to the other person on their behaviour. This is best when the other person request for feedback. Even if the other person does not request for feedback, he could ask, is it alright if I can make some observations of your behaviour as well so that we can take our relationship building project forward. This could lead to another rich conversation.
If they focus on the bigger aim of building a quality relationship they could avoid becoming defensive and emotional about the issues at hand. Yes there will be issues that will make the two parties defensive, emotional or even aggressive and if that happens, a different conversation should be scheduled to discuss that aspect.
This method works between persons of varied relationships such as husband & wife, parent & child, siblings, fiancées & fiancés, boss and direct report, co-workers, customer & supplier, members of opposing political parties, head of different states etc.. Any of the two can start the conversation even if they perceive they are the weaker of the two.
Quality conversations will lead to better understanding of the other party and it will help us to be better understood. When that happens it starts enriching the relationships. Quality relationships lead to successful relationships.
Therefore the quality of our success depends on the quality of our conversations.