I've been trying to make them understand.

Every human, at his or her core, desires to be understood. This includes you.

Dr. Stephen Covey, in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, encourages his readers to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

He goes on to say,

“‘Seek first to understand’ involves a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak. They’re filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people’s lives…Empathic listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they feel….Empathic listening is so powerful because it gives you accurate data to work with. Instead of projecting your own autobiography and assuming thoughts, feelings, motives and interpretation, you’re dealing with the reality inside another person’s head and heart. You’re listening to understand. You’re focused on receiving the deep communication of another human soul.”

- Dr. Stephen Covey

It takes a lot of humility and self-awareness to admit to oneself that you are probably not a very good listener. Or maybe that you’re capable of listening but incapable of empathising.

Take a minute now, to assess, how concerted your efforts are to understand those around you, especially in comparison to how hard you try to make them understand you.

If you can afford to do better when it comes to trying to understand others, all it takes is one tiny decision. It takes a small choice, at the next opportunity you have to hear someone else’s point of view (when in disagreement with yours), that your sole mission, then and there, is to understand them first.

Like everything else, it takes practice. Keep making that little choice over and over. Keep deciding to open your ears and your heart while keeping your mouth shut. I promise, you will get better at it over time.

Why?

  • You'll position yourself to be part of the solution rather than the problem

  • You’ll strengthen your relationships by taking this approach

  • You’ll feel lighter and your emotional intelligence will grow

But most importantly

The person on the other end of the conversation deserves, just as much as you do, to be heard and have their views validated. You are always going to be entitled to your opinions and are welcome to disagree. But you can disagree with someone and still validate that their view is true and important to them.

Lately, I’ve been speaking up about the oppression of women in India. So far, I’ve been keeping my videos about Indian women on YouTube pretty light-hearted but in some day-to-day discussions, I’ve been bringing up issues of child abuse, child sexual abuse, suicide, rape and other forms of injustice endured by women and girls, in my country of birth (which I acknowledge, is not the only country where it happens - just the country where I can clearly see how and why).

The most frustrating responses I’ve received, thus far, have been those that deny the problem even exists. The conversation snaps in half when someone does that. It can’t continue. There will be no agreement, no debate, no discussion, simply a full-stop. This is such a disrespectful way to treat the concerns of another person.

Sometimes it’s due to ignorance. Sometimes it’s because the other person doesn’t want to see the problem because it paints someone or something they care about in a negative light.

But if we’re going to make progress, we need to be okay with that. We need to hear the other person. We must try to understand. Treat others how you want to be treated.

If you prefer to stick with pushing your own views onto others, you’ll have be prepared to have fewer meaningful conversations with others. People will feel the need to stick to shallow waters around you because of your choice not to go deeper with them.

Yes, it’s a choice. It’s not an inability. You make a choice to not try. You make a choice when you aim to win arguments by denying that the other person’s plight is a non-issue.

Culture tells you to speak your mind. I agree, 100%. But if you want to be a better human, reserve your speech for later. First, listen and understand the thoughts and feelings of other humans around you. Show them counter-cultural respect.