I have been watching my favourite drama serial Return of the Condor Heroes lately. In the course of the show, I noticed that misunderstandings advance the story. For some reason or other, the male and female lovers always seem to get the wrong idea. As a result, they have many partings and reunions. How differently things would have turned out if they had taken the trouble to clarify their doubts.
In one scene, the female lead chances upon her lover while he is putting on a show. His aim is to mediate a conflict between two brothers. But due to the lie he made up, the female lead assumes he no longer loved her and leaves in tears. While the scene makes a very dramatic story, it is just as easy for us to get the wrong idea in real life. What then can we do to avoid misunderstandings?
The Dangers of Misunderstandings
Before we deal with misunderstandings, let us look at its dangers. Misunderstandings can cause many problems and might even lead to open conflicts. At work, it can damage relationships between your boss and colleagues. This might hamper career advancement or the completion of tasks and projects. In personal affairs, it can cause hurt and lead you to quarrel with your loved ones. This causes disharmony, which is very disruptive. As you can see, because of misunderstandings we have to deal with many needless problems in life. But this need not be the way of things. If we take some steps to clarify matters early, we can avoid getting and giving the wrong idea. To do so, we must understand the nature of misunderstandings.
How to Avoid Misunderstandings
Why do misunderstandings happen? Often it is because of imperfect knowledge and hasty judgments. To compound matters, the person who gets the wrong idea might fail to clarify his or her assumptions. Thus, before we know it, a misunderstanding arises than can easily spiral out of control. But fret not. By dealing with the root causes of misunderstandings, we can take steps to pre-empt it.
The first step to dealing with misunderstandings is awareness. We have to be aware that it is very easy to get and give the wrong idea. In truth, things are rarely what they appear to be. What we see or hear is only the surface of things or a part of a greater whole. If we take an event out of context, it is easy to get the wrong idea.
Also, how something appears to us might be completely different for someone else. Some people might not even be aware of the impression they are giving through their actions. And what do we know of the circumstances that cause them to act the way they do? Similarly, we should be aware of the impression we give with our actions. Only by being aware will we be less hasty and thus avoid misunderstandings.
2. Avoid Jumping to Conclusions
As I mentioned above, what we see and hear may not be the whole picture. We must also consider the context and the reasons behind the actions. People always have good reasons for acting in a way they do. While their actions might seem strange to us, it makes perfect sense to them because they know why they are doing so. To avoid getting the wrong idea, we should always try to place ourselves in their shoes. A shift in perspective often leads to greater insights. If that fails, we should try to find out the whole story directly. Only when we grasp the reasons behind the actions will we be able to avoid getting the wrong idea. This is even more critical when the matters involved are of extreme importance.
For example, some of my friends complain that I do not pick up the phone. It is not that I do not want to, but I often get telemarketing calls, which I dislike. Thus, if I do not recognize the number or if it is a private number, I will not pick it up. When I explain why I do not pick up a call, everything makes more sense.
It is always easier to get the wrong idea than to get our facts right. When this happens, our feelings will cloud our judgment and actions, compounding the problem. Because it is so easy to misread matters, it is better to suspend our judgment and keep an open mind until we are sure of what is going on. This is all the more important when there are grave consequences involved.
If I have any doubts, the best way to clarify them is to ask. By checking with the parties involved, I can see if I have understood a situation rightly. I believe it is important to find out the background of events and the reasons behind actions. Only when I understand these things will I be less likely to get the wrong idea. To facilitate the process, I always try to ask my questions with tact. This lowers resistance and helps me to get the heart of the matter. With these actions, I avoid getting the wrong idea through clarification.
4. Keep Communication Open and Honest
The first victim of misunderstandings is communication. To avoid this, it is best to be open and honest. Keeping things from others is rarely a good idea. It is true that some truths are hard to accept and timing is as important as the delivery. If we tell the truth to someone who cannot handle it, we might end up doing more harm than good. But truths and facts are undeniable. Telling white lies, partial truths and hiding things always runs the risk of discovery and misunderstandings.
Ultimately, hiding things should only be a short-term measure when there is really no other choice. When this happens, it is best to reveal the whole truth to avoid further misunderstandings at the first chance we get. In the long-term, it is always better to be open and honest. But in doing so, it is a good idea to deliver the truth with tact. If a truth is hard to accept as it is, we could also try to present it from a different perspective. Not only do these actions lessen the blow, it also helps to make it easier to accept.
It is possible to avoid getting and giving the wrong idea. We just need to be aware of how easy it is for misunderstandings to arise. After that, it is merely a matter of clarifying our doubts through communication. If we can follow these simple steps, we are less likely to get and give the wrong idea.
What are your views on misunderstandings? How do you deal with it when it arises? Do share your thoughts and comments below!