Has there ever been a time in your life when you discovered that your interpretation of an event was completely opposite of another person’s interpretation of that very same event? We could easily apply this to political discussions, friendships, family members, partners, work relations, etc. It can be one of the more frustrating conversations you have with another person. That frustration can even be heightened if you hear the opposing side from a third party, or what we like to call behind our back gossip. Being misunderstood can hit at the very core of our self-image. I’m not talking about having a bad first impression, or simply not getting along with someone. Being misunderstood by the people closest to us can cause a person to go a little crazy. But maybe we can bypass that feeling of instability when we start to understand that everyone has their own version of the truth.
A while back I had a conversation with someone in my life who didn’t quite understand why I was feeling the way I was: angry, upset, and frustrated. When I tried to explain the reasoning for my feelings, and the reasoning for my setting boundaries around our relationship, I was met with confusion. Despite my attempts at voicing my opinion with care and “I feel” statements I had completely, and unintentionally upset them. I walked away from the encounter discouraged, and irritated. How, if I was so clear with my feelings and reasoning, did this person not understand me? It can be the most infuriating thing for someone near you to not understand where you’re coming from because it reflects on their perception of who you are. You have your truth, and to you it’s right. That truth is then further supported by the emotions that arise when reflecting on, or living that truth. So when someone does not recognize your truth, it feels as though they’re invalidating your feelings and thoughts. This brings up another point: Although everyone has their own truth that may be unreasonable or illogical, everyone’s feelings are genuine.
I may disagree with family members, I may upset someone with my version of the truth, I may perceive an encounter as perfectly normal when actually a friend sees it as rude. Everyone has their version of the truth. But no matter what, their feelings are very much real and should very much be recognized. Understanding that can help you move forward with your relationships more concretely, or step away from them knowing that you’ve done your best, but your versions unfortunately clashed and you can no longer maintain a genuine relationship with that person. The latter would be used for a relationship that is infected with toxic communication and emotional manipulation. Sometimes you just have to cut off those ties. But by understanding that that toxic person has their truth, and their genuine emotions, you can cut ties with confidence and feel more stable in your decision to live a healthier life. It’s one of the more difficult things to do. Recognizing emotions over pushing your truth onto other people shows them that you’re an empathetic person, and although you’re having a disagreement, your motives are not meant to cause that person any pain, discouragement, or hurt. You’re recognizing them as an emotional human being despite your disagreement, and that ability can go a long way.
When we understand that everyone’s feelings are genuine, we can approach conflict easier. I am a firm believer in the “I feel” statements. Most of the time, despite the example I gave above, they work. It really depends on the stability of the person, and whether or not they want your relationship to grow, or if they’re too wrapped up in themselves. These statements show the other person that despite the miscommunication, they still felt a certain way. Recognize that emotion is more effective than proving your truth and showing logic. It helps you separate yourself, allowing you to help the other person the way they need to be helped. Sometimes it may be because of something you did, but a lot of the time it may stem from another area. Just the other day I was feeling irritable about not having as productive a day as I would have liked, simply because I was flooded and tired, and I snapped at my partner. The most helpful thing he did was not snap back or take it personally, but rather he said in the most patient way, “It seems like you’re irritated, what’s going on?” Without hesitation I explained that I was just feeling bummed about my productivity and was in a crummy mood. By approaching me like that, I then recognized and apologized for taking it out on him, that it was rude, and I need to work on channeling my irritability in another way. If we didn’t have that interaction, our night could have been one big heightened conflict. But recognizing my emotions instead of acting on his perception of my rude behavior helped me feel valued as someone who sometimes has a bad day. All too often we feel defensive when someone is upset, or take it upon ourselves to shoulder their burden, particularly those closest to us. We can’t possibly listen effectively if in the back of our mind, we’re building our case to express our truth and proving ourselves.
We can learn effective communication by showing those closest to us that we value them simply by validating their emotions, and understanding that they have their own truth. Sometimes we may challenge that. This isn’t an article about letting people walk all over you. It’s about learning to pick your disagreements, and sometimes allowing disagreements to just be. It’s about realizing that emotions may sometimes be unreasonable, but they’re still worthy of recognition. When we invalidate emotions, we’re telling people how they feeling, something we can’t possibly know. It’s okay to perceive something different, as long as you respect that sometimes those things happens. But it’s not okay to place emotions on another person, or express that their emotions are unreasonable and therefore not worthy of recognition.
For other tips on effective communication: Three Tips For Setting Boundaries.