Understanding others is the access for empathy to flow

16.06.2020

Only when we make the effort to connect with the other to know what their reality is, their needs and what their emotions are, do we facilitate the authentic respect that coexistence erects. Because those who understand and empathize with those in front of them, feel that this person also deserves consideration and appreciation.

Let's think about it for a moment. Imagine a world in which the human being interacts with each other as in an anthill. Each one fulfills a function, each member of the community carries out his work without another aspiration and without other motivations. Nobody cares about the other, there is no understanding and, therefore, there is also no empathy and those emotions that facilitate attention, care, friendship, altruism ...

Without these processes, humanity as such does not exist. It is true that people are also defined by adverse and somewhat conflictive aspects. However, no mental and emotional process is as decisive for our coexistence as knowing how to understand. Furthermore, as striking as it may seem to us, few dimensions are as complex as they are difficult to carry out.

Because whoever authentically understands the other, does so in a very concrete way: free from judgment and full of wills. Let's understand a little better what this life competition consists of.

Knowing how to understand others, a pending subject

There are few things that despair us as much as not being understood. Since childhood we have come into contact with that devastating feeling, that our parents, siblings, friends or teachers do not understand what we feel or what happens to us. When this happens we are invaded by that mixture that goes from rage to sadness. This does not change either in adult ages.

Feeling misunderstood is one of the deepest and most painful ailments. Perhaps for this reason, knowing what it means, we should try much more to take care of this competence, to facilitate it to others despite the fact that, sometimes, certain people have failed us in the past. However, it must be done well.

As Goethe noted, "People tend to listen only to what we understand." It is true, somehow we only connect with those who are most understandable to us in our eyes, with those who harmonize the most with our ideas, values ​​and thoughts.

Instead, understanding requires always making a greater effort. In fact, sometimes it involves something really brave: discovering, accepting, and connecting with someone who doesn't think like me.

Knowing how to understand is not the same as knowing how to understand

To know how to understand others authentically, it is necessary to clarify one detail. Understanding is not the same as understanding. In fact, most of the time we are left with the second dimension, that is, we dedicate ourselves only to deciphering what other people want to send us. We are aware of the message and its meaning, but nothing more.

Now understanding involves something deeper. It is not only to decipher what they tell us, it is to connect with the particular reality of the person in front of me through empathy. It is going beyond words to intuit needs and feel them. Thus, one thing to keep in mind is that the understanding process is both incredibly active as well as complex.

For this process to be effective we must apply what in psychology we know as the theory of mind. This concept is defined as that ability that we people have to infer the mental states of others, such as their thoughts, fears, desires, intentions, etc. In this way, we understand why they do certain things and even predict future behaviors.

Once we process all that information, we interpret it in order to act accordingly. All these mechanisms are integrated into the mental act of knowing how to understand. However, we cannot ignore the emotional aspect either.

Understand without prejudging, connect from empathy

Daniel Goleman also talks to us often in his books about the need to know how to understand others. Now, point out one detail: it is not just about inferring what the person in front of me may be thinking or feeling. It is not enough just to become aware of what you may be thinking or if what you are experiencing is fear or sadness.

Authentic understanding will never be possible if there is no will and interest. So the theory of mind and emotional intelligence are useless if I have my head elsewhere while talking to my partner.

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