Friday, November 04, 2011

Seek First to Understand

Today I experienced a conflict between people in a group I frequently see. Within my personal calmness in the midst of the heat, I observed expressed indignation and thought about how much easier this situation would be if both parties would pause, step aside and see how the other is affected. If the ego would have been shushed and selfish positioning would have been exchanged, if only for a minute, with selfless reflection, I would not be writing this. The truth is most of us go into defense mode when we feel we are being attacked or threatened. It is healthy to have such protection mechanisms active and doing their job, as long as a healthy balance is included. When it comes to interpersonal matters, defense which quickly becomes offense often ceases to serve its purpose.

There is a saying in Spanish that goes "cada cabeza es un mundo", which literally translated is "every head is a world". It means that every person has their own ideas, opinions and views which are likely to vary from others'; that your thoughts are not necessarily someone else's. Even though we may share similar backgrounds, concepts or preferences, our outlook and approach may come from different angles, hence why a little something called empathy comes in handy in times of disagreements.

Saint Francis of Assisi put it best, "Grant that we may not so much seek to be understood as to understand."

When you choose to build a bridge instead of raising a wall, you have greater chances of warmth and connection. You open the doors for honest communication and produce a sense of shared gratefulness. I am positive that if we were capable of easily relinquishing the fear of getting hurt, the what's-in-it-for-me mentality, the superficial notion of whether or not one would look bad, we would respond from another place entirely.  

Seek to understand first, and you will make it much easier to be understood.

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