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Chapter 9: understanding - The Good Heart Project

I recently saw an interview, where Jay Shetty was asked: What is something that others value, that you don't. After a moment of reflection he said: being understood - It's ok for me to not be understood. Somehow it never occurred to me, or rather it is something I wasn't conscious of: wanting to be understood. Once I remembered his video, I started noticing, how many of my frustrations at work had the main root cause of being misunderstood. Having moved from a European work environment to an Asian one led to significant cultural changes. These cultural differences manifested itself in the way people communicate, interpret actions / words said, the way people want to be treated and the way they treat others. Because of the way I express myself and expression comes down to my tone, my words and my body language, I was interpreted as "too much", I was considered a "force", and a "bulldozer". It hurt my feelings in a way that my intentions were not that. My intention was to lead change in a kind and compassionate manner, considerate of my colleagues feelings. With the cultural distance, the misinterpretation led to my receiving this feedback very late in the process of change. This led to a lot of unhappiness on my end, frustration and countless efforts to "fix" the perception others had of me. And I am still continuing to do so. Interestingly, I had set my word of the year 2023 to be gratitude, to embed thankfulness in every thought, action and word. I set this as my resolution, to make sure that I don't focus on what is not working, but focus on what is working. Only now I realize that the cause of many of my frustrations was my desire to be understood. For that realization I am thankful. When watching Meghan Markle's Netflix show, I sympathized with her, where her whole objective of the show was to tell the Truth - her side. She felt among other feelings, frustrated and anxious because her actions were misinterpreted by the media. This desire to wanting to be understood, seems to be a phenomenon that is causing not only me frustration, but many people. I asked my sister today about the quote I read from George Orwell: "Perhaps one did not want to be loved as much as to be understood." What is it for her? She thought about whether these are linked: Can I feel loved, yet not understood? Can I feel understood, yet not loved? Everyone's answer may be different, but the importance lies in asking the question for yourself, and being conscious about what you value and whether that value benefits your wellbeing or not. Why is it, that we have the desire to be understood? Psychology Today wrote an article about how potentially feeling understood might be more important than feeling loved. Do you think so? The article states ten reasons, on why this may be:

  • You're known

  • Your identity is confirmed

  • You exist

  • You belong

  • You are part of something larger than yourself

  • You are accepted

  • You are empowered

  • You understand yourself better

  • You experience more satisfaction in your relationships

  • You are shielded from the depths of depression

After writing this article, I'm realizing how I feel like I want to let go of the feeling of wanting to be understood, at least by some social circles. The frustrations that come with this desire are harming me more than they benefit me, which is why a decision is necessary for me: Let go of wanting to be understood. This is not a new learning - one of the most important lessons learnt after reading the book of Stephen Covey: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which is Habit 5 - Seek first to understand, then to be understood. My coach at work had asked me to focus my entire efforts to improve and embed this habit into my working life. Why? Because, as George Orwell says, seeking to be understood is sometimes more important for people than seeking to be loved. And being able to provide that understanding to others can potentially provide you the blessing of giving the feeling of being known, existing and belonging to someone else. This gift, seeking to understand, rather than being understood, will allow you to connect with people in ways you weren't able to before. The main action for you to do here, is actively listen. It's as Gandhi says: Be the change you want to see in others. If you want to be understood - understand first! After more discussions with my sister, she mentioned that she has different expectations of wanting to be understood from different levels of her circle of intimacy.

In graph below, people closest to her the expectation of being understood is high. This expectation decreases with the growing width of the circle, where at the "encounter" level, she has no expectation of being understood. That might be a way to approach "letting go of wanting to be understood": From outside to inside, let go of seeking to be understood, and focus on understanding first.


Join me on this journey to change for the better, embrace the connection to our own good hearts, gift understanding from our good hearts and open-heartedly be grateful of any understanding you receive gracefully. Let's unleash the goodness in our hearts! With love, Ushma

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