Although we would rarely, if ever, make that bold statement out loud, we often act as if we believe that our interpretation of a situation is the “correct” or only possible interpretation. This thinking pattern can lead to misunderstanding, frustration, conflict, and stress.
The important thing to understand is that the more firmly you believe that your interpretation of a situation is the “right” one, the more likely it is that you are going to be in conflict with other people.
The cost of misunderstanding is enormous.
It annoys our customers, it upsets our colleagues, it disappoints our bosses, and it can enrage our family members. But the good news is that there is a lot we can do about it, as long as we appreciate that learning to avoid damaging conflicts starts with understanding ourselves and our thought process.
Each of us interprets events through the filter of our previous life experiences.
As The Talmud says, “We don’t see the world as it is; we see it as we are.” When we encounter somebody who sees the world differently, rather than thinking, “Oh, that’s interesting, tell me more about how you see it,” we are more likely to advocate for our own interpretation. Instead of listening to understand, we listen to defend or to advocate. So the other person starts to do the same thing. Once we are at loggerheads and getting nowhere, we may damage the relationship and miss the opportunity to learn and grow.
Try to be less judgmental with other people.
Listen to what they have to say, be present, be mindful, and be prepared to understand something from the other person’s point of view. This does not mean you need to agree with the different point of view, just appreciate that it is different and take time to explore it. Demonstrate to the other person that you are really trying to understand their side first. Summarize back to them what you have understood and ask if you have “got it”. Then you will find that the other person is much more prepared to listen to you.
Once we can listen without judging what is right or wrong, we can begin to work on discovering creative possibilities within the reality that we do share – instead of frittering away energy and good will trying to make other people’s reality match our own. That’s never going to happen.