What is understanding? As a noun, it is the ability to understand or comprehend something. Used as an adjective, it is being sympathetically aware of another person’s feelings, an ability to be tolerant and forgiving.
Why is understanding important? It allows you to see different perspectives by being approachable, compassionate, and supportive of someone else. Restating or rephrasing what a person says back to them, allows an opportunity for the person to acknowledge that you understood them, or clarify what they were saying. It helps them feel that you appreciate their situation. It conveys to them that you are listening.
Active listening is key to deepen understanding. In this process, you are not judging, interrupting, or weighing in. This helps you to develop discernment through being patient and open-minded. Most people don’t listen at a very deep level. The focus is on the words. Most of what people are trying to convey are through their actions, or their body language. So, in active listening, you are not only hearing their words and processing them, you are seeing and processing their body language to see if it is consistent with what they are saying. This is where we tend to get into trouble with email and text, as we only see and interpret words.
You can also deepen understanding and help someone gain perspective through reframing their situation. Ask yourself how could you look at this person’s situation differently? Reframing is looking at the situation, person, relationship from a slightly different perspective. For example, you may view the situation with a wider or narrow lens. This can take a certain level of skill, but if you consciously practice it, it is something that you can develop and may serve you in solidifying your relationships. It is important when reframing, to not come across as taking another person’s side or disagreeing with them.
It takes openness, honesty, and emotional maturity to be understanding. While you may not agree with the person that is sharing with you, it is important to understand where they are coming from. This is the first step. Once you’ve shown that you have deep understanding of a person or situation, you can determine based on your relationship, how to best move forward with the conversation.
This Thanksgiving week, take some time to truly understand someone!