/ misunderstandings.php

On Misunderstandings

(be brave)

The actual essay:

Do you think misunderstandings in relationships are inevitable? How do you handle them?

Here's what happens in a misunderstanding:

I think misunderstandings are inevitable.

This is my theory of misunderstandings and what to do about them.

Here's what I think is a fair way to handle it. Apply the Golden Rule. Does it feel the same when you're on the other side? I think so.

But if you'd rather focus on the part where your friend learns what you were thinking and you get to teach your friend a lesson, and you want to skip the part where you learn what they were thinking and trying to say and where you assimilate a lesson, too, yourself, about how to understand them, then, nothing personal, but that seems out of balance. To me it seems selfish, domineering, and disrespectful, and injures the relationship. You have to root out the mistrust by honestly and respectfully engaging with your friend's real intention, by letting that really count, because that is what they really meant. If you insist on staying on your own side, you're just burning down the bridge of connection between you and your friend.

Think about it. Just a thought.

A personal bit I commented out before

I thought of editing the misunderstandings thing a little bit, emphasizing the points where the blaming other decides not to listen to the misunderstandable speaker's intention, and making sure they get it that it's not just their job to teach the other what their insulted interpretation was but also to learn what the uninsulting meaning that was really trying to be communicated was, and taking seriously that the true intention was the true intention. Partners often take their own position way too universalistically, like the other person doesn't really have a position. and that is super extremely wrong and hostile, just as much as the inferred and as it turns out false insult seemed to be hostile. so the responsibility really has to be shared equally, if it's a misunderstanding, and the insulted party has to step up just as much as the other. often those who take offense are not willing to step up and understand the true intention, and that is their character flaw, which ruins relationships and intimacy even more than the insulter has done. I guess that's an implicit message in the essay, do you think? ... That's when what is in actual fact a sincere misunderstanding (where the offensive communication X had an intended meaning Y which was inoffensive) becomes grounds indeed to break up the relationship, precisely because the furious party is unwilling to consider the 'offender''s actual intention as having any validity, nor is even willing to hear what that intention was then or thereafter. The very preference of the furious one of remaining attached to their fury over respecting the other party to the relationship actually terminates the relationship, because in that situation the 'offender' no longer exists in the relationship, the furious one is alone with their fury, their interpretation, their insistence that that's the only thing that really happened when they were offended, their continuing insistence that the other *was* offensive. The other person essentially isn't even there. Exactly. It's like being ten ;-) Ultimately the furious one has to grow up, or the other one has to leave the relationship. That's why the misunderstanding model is so important, if either one is unwilling to acknowledge the other's interpretation Y or Z, then the relationship is broken, by the unwilling one's selfishness. ... Commitment is a funny thing. Suppose you find you like a certain restaurant, and you go back, and get that wonderful dish again. Then over time you find yourself a regular, always ordering the same thing. It's as if you were committed. In that way I have found myself committed to siddha yoga, to table tennis, to plumbing, to trader joe's frozen dinners, to lunches with Dad every other weekend, to calling my mom and my sister and brother in law once in a while. It's not scary or constraining when it happens that way. But when one makes a big commitment to be with a partner, and s/he says yes, both of you are reaching for something you want in principle, and want to try to get with each other, but perhaps neither of us had the regular positive history of working with the other to rely on. So it may be more of a shot in the dark, ultimately, and although not really a mistake, certainly it can be a painful learning experience, when you found yourselves creating negative dynamics together that you can't figure out how to avoid. To me the key lesson is that the misunderstanding-resolution process must be respected on both sides, and anyone that isn't willing to step up to the whole thing after at most a few days of a cool off period, is an unworkable unsuitable partner that needs to go imperiously dominate a different partner and then a succession of them, rather than remain with me. My contribution to such a problem has been that I wasn't willing to say that, to demand it, and to call it her problem if she wasn't willing to do it, and to leave her if she insisted on not doing it. Instead I was overtolerant of her blaming, overaccepting of everything always being my fault, overunderstanding of all her inner and outer stressors as counting vastly more than the misery that I felt when accepting the criticism and contempt and negativity that she would express toward me. In short, I was a wuss. So, it won't happen again. I've got this page on the web, a line in the sand. I make sure to discuss it in any significant relationship, for example, and although I didn't in the first failing case get the actual clear head nod that yes you too agree that even in the heat of it I have another position that needs to be heard and acknowledged just as you do, both equally, still I have at least made it clear that that's what I require from a partner, and if push comes to shove later then you'll know where I stand and either you'll step up as you can expect and require me to do, or we won't really be in a relationship at all and we can both move on. So that gives me a sense that I don't have to be a bulldozee and it's calming to recognize that. Though there's probably a lot more to it, levels of lessons to learn. Perhaps it's activating different issues for others than I see. Do you agree with me? Are there more lessons here?
Copyright © 2000-2020, Thomas C. Veatch. All rights reserved.
Modified: January 16, 2020