“I feel misunderstood” is a sentence I hear a lot, from people I coach and train, from friends. And I am also not immune to feeling it myself. Feeling misunderstood, or not gotten, or not seen, sucks. Often when that happens we tend to either start speaking louder just to get our message across, or withdrawing and sort of giving up. In trigger-terms: going into fight or flight.
I see it a lot especially these days, with polarity on the internet going through the roof and people being very triggered. As a result, conversations are not really conversations anymore, but people shouting at each other. Or people withdrawing, afraid to speak up.
That had me thinking: what is often at the core of not feeling understood?
It is the experience that something matters to you and is not being heard.
Like I said: that experience is painful. Yet, the beautiful thing is: you can contribute to being gotten more. There are ways to communicate that make the chance of people understanding you much higher.
The ‘how’ is quite simple: start sharing that thing that really matters to you.
We often skip over sharing the thing that matters in our dialogues with other people. Because we are not consciously connected to it (but we are unconsciously!), because it might feel vulnerable to share or because you might fear judgement when you do.
I think we all have a lot of data corroborating that getting louder to get your message across tends not to work. Just remember a fight with your partner, flaring up towards your child or getting pissed off with a team member. Similarly, you will likely know that withdrawing does not allow people to hear your message either.
But do you also remember breaking through your anger, sort of sagging down and saying “you know, the thing is, I really care about this.” Or “I actually need this, but I was afraid to ask”. Or coming out of the bedroom and finally speaking up about that thing that is important to you?
Those are the moments when the likelihood of feeling understood increases significantly.
Instead of making a case, collecting evidence or trying to dominate, you drop a layer deeper, below the content and into what is important to you. Or in other words: your need. It is about getting vulnerable and relating from a different part of you.
This is the clue to being understood more. And it is a beautiful way to step more fully into your personal leadership.
In Non Violent Communication they call this: expressing your needs. Without judgement and also without expectation of them being met. However, the practice of connecting to your needs and expressing them, definitely increases the chance of them being met. Sounds logical, right?
Marshall Rosenberg, founder of NVC, says: “Every message, regardless of form or content, is an expression of a need”
If you can drop into that need and share it, conversations become cleaner (you are not indirectly trying to get what you want, but acknowledging it head on), more real, and let’s be honest, more fun. They also become more rich and rewarding. When I engage with another human being on that level, below the level of content, my empathy increases. My capacity for listening – really listening – increases as well. And the chance of me being understood also increases – exponentially.
On top of that you will likely get more of what you want, because you asked for it. How is that for a bonus?
This way of communicating is a vital skill – anywhere. It works for conflict in the office, for confusion or clashes at home. It even works in connection with yourself. When I am wrapped in content (to do lists, getting shit done), and don’t acknowledge my needs, I feel grumpy, tired, and a part of me frankly feels misunderstood. All I need to do is to take a moment and listen to what I need.
I work with this practice in my Couples Coaching sessions and all my coaching sessions really. It is also a vital skill in my Find Your Flavour – Circling Leadership Training. Being able to honestly communicate your needs and desires, and shifting from indirect, often passive-aggressive ways of relating to full ownership is a very empowering experience. You will strengthen your leadership in all areas of your life when you are able to do so.
If you want to explore how to learn about and honour your needs more fully, reach out for a free coaching intake. Or if you are ready to step up your leadership capacity and dive into a full 6 month exploration of this topic and many others, Find Your Flavour – Circling Leadership Training might be for you. Check it out here, and reach out if you want to set up an intake.