Seek to Understand

One of the most important aspects of a fulfilling life is the depth of relationships that we have with people around us. With each interaction, we have the opportunity to develop a more meaningful relationship. Easy, right?

Well, when you’re getting along it’s easy. But what about when you’re angry, or when you’re being criticized?  Do you know someone that you struggle to be around without getting angry or annoyed?  Do you wish you had a better relationship with someone close to you such as a spouse or a child?

Communication for more intimate relationships with those close to you requires empathy and compassion. It requires you to care as much about the other as you do yourself. The vast majority of arguments are over who is right and who is wrong.  Intimate communication means that you shift away from caring who is right, and instead try to understand what the other is feeling.  Just remember these three words; “seek to understand.”

This change of heart (and attitude) can improve relationships in your life immediately. Then, you can develop deeper communication skills through techniques like those found in Dr. David Burn’s; Feeling Good Together. WARNING: If you skip the change in heart and learn the communication techniques for your personal gain (like to win arguments), you will come across as patronizing or condescending (not good).

Try this:  Next time someone criticizes you, find the truth in what they said instead of defending yourself. Seek to understand what that person sees and feels. This simple change in heart will do wonders for even the most challenging relationships. Here is an example:

You have a rough day at the office and get home late from work and as you walk in the door;

  • Spouse: “You’re always late and I’m sick of waiting for you!”
  • Your reply: “I’ve had a long day and now you’re on me?”

Notice that you have replied defensively and have not validated the spouse’s feelings. Here’s another reply:

  • Your reply: “You’re right! I am late, and you have every right to be angry. It’s been hard on me too. Maybe we should talk about it?”

By seeking to validate and understand your spouse, you open the door for a much deeper dialog instead of arguing over who is right.

Give it a shot and be amazed by how good a change of heart feels!!

Chris Guzniczak

Licensed Professional Counselor Intern

Under Supervision of Tiffany Smith LPC-S, LMFT-S, NCC

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