I recently read a short excerpt by Alain de Botton that made really reflect and think: Can we blame others for not understanding us? Let me explain:
Reading can really make you see things in a different light. Sometimes you get reminded of things you already know, and they just get presented in a way that resonates differently.
That's how I felt when I read the following excerpt by Alain de Botton, a Swiss writer, in the book Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss.
"To blame someone for not understanding you fully is deeply unfair because first of all, we don't understand ourselves, and even if we do understand ourselves, we have such a hard time communicating ourselves to other people. Therefore, to be furious and enraged and bitter that other people don't get all of who we are is a really cruel piece of immaturity." (p. 487).
That little excerpt provides a great way to look at our interactions with others, and appreciate how imperfect both sides are. Alain brings out some really good reasons why we should perhaps think before jumping to conclusions and feeling resentment.
1. First of all - we barely know ourselves. So how could we possibly expect others to understand us, if we are unsteadily wobbling through life ourselves?
We change so frequently that sometimes it's like we must keep up with who we are becoming. Events in our lives shape us, the way we view situations, and the way we react.
2. Secondly, we all have a tendency to be really bad communicators, especially in the heat of the moment.
It's easy to get clouded by emotions, or just the notion that you understand what you mean, so everyone else must? Basically, we live in our head a lot of the time.
It's often hard to capture the right words to express something. Or even if we think we have the right words, a problem still exists. That's because the words we pick might mean something completely different to another person. Again, because we interpret meaning into things based on our experiences in life.
3. I thought Alain brought up another good point in this excerpt, one that is quite subtle. Recall he said: "to be furious and enraged and bitter that other people don't get all of who we are....".
Get the point?
People are doing their best. Sometimes people understand a little of what's going on, some of what we're trying to express. They may never understand the whole thing, because they're not us (and remember we don't fully understand ourselves), but they're trying.
Despite the bad communication habits and barriers we all have, we still manage to understand each other to some degree. We are not all minds and bodies colliding into each other. We are able to make plans, express those plans to others, make decisions, etc., despite our imperfections.
We are still able to receive comfort from telling our friends our problems, because despite the fact that they might not get the story 100%, our thoughts and feelings are still conveyed. Our friends can still summarize the issues we bring forth, and get a sense of how those issues may be affecting our life.
So. What do you think?
Can we blame others for not understanding us?
We don't fully understand ourselves.
We don't fully understand them.
We find it hard to commuicate well enough for them to understand.
Often they're doing their best.
Anyway, some food for thought. Tools of Titans is a book about the tactics, routines and habits of billionaires, icons, and world class performers. It's a thick book with lots in it (some of it irrelevant), but a few interesting points that make you think deeply across multiple areas of life.
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