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To Be Understood

August, 2019

Give Every Thank You: Collage by Martha Clark Scala

A Gift of Joy for Givers and Receivers

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”

~ Bryant H. McGill

I strive to be understood. I may try too hard, at times, to get someone to understand me but do you know why I keep at it?

The joy of being understood is as sweet as the wild blueberries my mom used to pick on hot August afternoons. It’s not a jubilant, set-off-the-firecrackers type of joy. This joy is quieter. It registers as a more subtle victory, and as a result, I can’t help grinning.

Do you have this same response to being understood? I hope so.

What promotes understanding? What thwarts it?

Here is what I’ve come up with so far:

1. Start with a belief that your perspective is worthy of being understood. This means you assume you are on equal footing, even if you have less education, training, prestige, smarts, money, privilege, etc. You know your voice matters and you stand firm with that.

2. Good listeners. If someone is listening with the primary purpose of hearing what you have to say, rather than interjecting their opinion, or selling you on their viewpoint, the odds of you being and feeling understood are so much greater. Good listeners ask clarifying questions rather than assuming they understand everything the person has said. They show genuine interest.

3. Agreement is not a prerequisite for understanding. Someone can completely disagree with you (respectfully, one would hope) but still succeed at understanding. This may be the biggest challenge of all when speaker and listener have opposing beliefs, perspectives or opinions. But it is possible.

4. Empathy. The ability to step inside another’s shoes and see things through their eyes? Magical. Transformative. Profoundly so, sometimes. Oh, if only there were more empathy in our world right now.

I’m sure there are more factors; feel free to comment below if you want to contribute to this list.

“Seek first to understand and then to be understood.”

~ Stephen Covey

The joy of understanding isn’t just reserved for the receiver.

A recent voicemail message of gratitude from a friend of mine underscored this. “Yesssssss,” she exclaimed, “I can’t believe how well you get what I was trying to say!” Hearing her enthusiastic praise, I realized that I had given her the gift of understanding. That, too, made me grin. Joy, doubled.

Some wise person once said, “we love to be gotten.” I’ll simply close with the following quote as confirmation.

“If you want to enjoy the rewards of being loved, you also have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known.”

~ Tim Kreider

Note: This blog was written with gratitude to Dr. Anita Gupta, Ben Lee L.Ac., and Dr. Tohru Sato.

Comments on this blog post are welcome — see the bottom of this page.


Pictured Above

A collage inspired by gratitude.


Prompts For Joy

Click here to see the gift that comes from being understood. (Make sure you watch it all the way through.)

Click here because Everybody Loves Raymond, especially when he listens to his daughter.

Click here for all previous Prompts for Joy.



Front Cover of Assembling a Life by Martha Clark Scala

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