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What’s More Important for Clicking? Understanding or Feeling Understood?

Posted Jan 17 2011 12:00am

We’re picking up on the tail end of a conversation I had with my wife on a recent walk, continued from last week’s post.  Here’s the rest of the story.

I said, “So if a person is in the habit of judging a book by its cover, they may be missing out on some of the greatest relationship possibilities of their life.”

She nodded with understanding.  We continued walking, and then her fascination and interest kicked in.  She said, “What else gets in the way?”

“Well,” I replied, ”One of the biggest obstacles to developing successful relationships is that human beings often react too quickly to the words that other people use. Even if their reaction is accurate, taking what somebody says and thinking you understand it too quickly may deprive that person of having the experience of being heard and understood.  Because when people talk, they usually don’t just want you to react to what they say.  They want to have the experience of being heard and understood. ”

She backtracked, “So your understanding may be less important to the click than the other person feeling understood?”  It seemed to me that she had understood me precisely.  But then I qualified the idea.

“Yes, but.  It seems that what passes for understanding often isn’t.  So believing you know the meaning of someone else’s words could deny both of you an important experience.  You wouldn’t actually understand, and they wouldn’t feel understood.  By setting aside the immediate meaning you make, and showing an interest in the meaning that they make, you draw them out, and that draws you in closer to them.

“I’m not saying this is always necessary, or even a good idea.  There are some contexts where people are already clicking with each other, and it’s all ‘react, react, react’, and ‘hallucinate (make something up), hallucinate, hallucinate’, because that dynamic can be a lot of fun.  I’ve heard how you and your girlfriends talk with each other, and it seems to me that you get a lot of pleasure out of wide ranging coversations in which nothing is resolved and everyone is talking, sometimes at the same time!”

She nodded. “Yes, it’s true.  That is a lot of fun.”

“Since it works for you with those friends, that’s great.  You have the click.  But in my experience, more often than not, when people speak, they want to have the experience of being heard and understood.  And if you’re too busy having an opinion about what you’ve heard to give them that experience, the click is unlikely to happen or deepen.”

We walked on.  Suddenly, my wife stopped, stood in front of me, looked me in the eyes and smiled.  ”Did you like my questions?”

“Yes,” I replied. “But I love you!”

And there you have it.  If you have any feedback about this post, or questions about clicking, or about persuasive communication, or about the personal side of business, or conflict with coworkers, feel free to post them here in the comment section.  But whether you post a comment here or not, if you have a moment, I hope you’ll pop over to our real quick and click the ‘Like’ button!

Be well,

Rick

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