We all want to be heard and understood. We want to feel like someone “gets” us, understands where we’re coming from. Not feeling understood causes a lot of frustration. Sometimes I tell my husband something that’s bothering me and he’s dismissive or tries to solve the problem. But all I really want is for him to understand how I feel, to vent, and his reaction just angers and frustrates me more. Don’t dismiss it. Don’t explain it away or tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way. Just understand. Empathasize. Feel what I feel.
This happened recently with my ten-year-old son. He had a very strong reaction to something that, to me, was relatively minor. He was very angry that his weekly piano lesson interfered with part of his lunch time. At first I tried to explain why it made sense for the school to schedule it that way. To an adult, his being upset about this seemed silly. But I realized this was a big deal to him. He was really mad. Turned out it was because it meant he had to miss ten minutes of time he got to talk to a friend that he didn’t get to see much anymore. Talking to his friends is extremely important to him, and this ten minutes once a week was a big deal to him. And if you know ten-year-olds, socializing is huge for them.
Making an effort to understand where others are coming from goes a long way in healing relationships. And preventing hurt feelings to begin with. Sometimes that’s all we need to do. We may not be able to solve a problem. But make some effort to understand what’s really going on. It’s worth the effort.