Are you a person that in your relationships with other people most often strive to be understood or to understand others? Which you choose, especially when you get into conflict or quarrels, will be very decisive for whether you and your partner get closer or further apart.

Are you a person that in your relationships with other people most often strive to be understood or to understand others? Which you choose, especially when you get into conflict or quarrels, will be very decisive for whether you and your partner get closer or further apart, whether you are happier or unhappier together.

A simple and astounding perspective

The first time we were confronted with this perspective on relationships was through a good friend, Bo. We were completely blown away by how simple and yet fundamentally profound these two focuses are in our relationships.

Observing your approach

When you puts on your observation glasses and dare to honestly observe yourself there is a lot to gain from understanding these two approaches.

Are you a person who usually strives to understand or to be understood? And you can catch yourself in the middle of a discussion to realize what focus you have in a given moment?

Striving to be understood

We would argue that in all discussions and conflicts that are perceived as moving the relationship in a negative direction, where the parties feel constrained or where the heat of the conflict grows stronger, then it's about that there is too much focus is on making yourselves understood, instead of devote yourselves to understanding the other party.

When we focus mainly on being understood, we consciously or unconsciously put ourselves before the other person, make ourselves more important. That is seldom the creation of a fertile ground for relationships filled with love.

Rehearsing your answer

A typical behavior when you are focusing on being understood is that you are rehearsing your answer inside your head while you half-heartedly listen to the other, or just waiting for a breathing space where you can sneak into your message.

In this case you are more focused on making the other person understand how our world looks rather than you ourselves striving to understand how their world looks like.

Markus: In my experience this is a lot about trust. A trust, and a belief, that it will be fine even if I let go of the need to have a reply ready.

That what needs to be said will be said, that what needs to happen will happen if I remain centered in myself and devote my time and effort to understanding.


Useful in times of conflict

Especially in phases of a relationship's development in which conflicts are common, it makes a big difference whether we are able to take us to a place where we dare to understand. In many ways, one could say that conflict management is really about these two perspectives.

In situation of conflict, do you devote yourself to understanding the other person, or is your main focus on making yourself understood?

Sometimes we fool ourselves

Sometimes we think we are really trying to understand when in fact we fill our heads with our own images and our own phrases that are aimed at making it clear to the other person what we mean.

More rarely we dare to stay in the moment, clear our own heads for the moment and just dedicate ourselves to really understanding the other person's way of looking at things and how they experience the world.

With the answer playing

We have our answer playing in our head so that as soon as the other person stops long enough, for example, when he or she needs to breathe, we can jump in with our own words and explanations.

Filippa: I sometimes find myself getting into a defensive position when someone states something or asks me questions, I take it for granted that there is criticism hidden beneath.

When I instead of responding directly ask a question in return so that I really understand what the statement or question is about I often notice that it is not about criticism. Rather it is about that the other person wants to understand me, but I don't allow them to do that if I do not respond to the real question.

When I focus on really understanding the other's question or statement, the result is that I also get understood.

Daring to focus on understanding

To dare to stop and empty yourself of your own stuff requires, as stated above, courage and also a belief that the other person will stop and do you the same favor in return at some stage. That is, they will in a moment of full attention devote themselves to understand you.

Countless times we have find ourselves in situations where two people sternly indulge themselves into being understood. Imagine the effect it could have on the various conflict zones around the world if there was a genuine desire to understand.

The power of understanding

People who feel that someone is indulging in really understanding them will feel important. People who feel important and acknowledged will feel safe. People who feel safe people do not start wars. People who feel safe people fill the world with love and allow themselves the luxury of devoting time to understanding other people.

To work on understanding there is a golden tool in being able to ask questions. Ask with the starting point of understanding the worldview of the other person. Emarbk on a shared journey through each other's internal paradigms and visions of the world. To truly understand another human being you have to walk a number of miles in their moccasins.

Acknowledgment included at no extra cost

To devote yourself to listening and understanding is also a great way to acknowledge other people and get them to really feel important.

Imagine how many misunderstandings that could have been avoided if we listened to the fullest instead of being preoccupied with our own agenda, probably with our response playing in our head while the other is still talking.

The gift of listening

It is a true gift to listen to someone with the full intent to start from their view of world. Giving them space, avoiding giving them your well-meaning advice, but rather letting them find the solutions themselves and through that also the greatest of all feelings of self-esteem.

The man's trap

If you have a core of male energy, which is not necessarily equal to that you are a man, but as usuaal we will use the term "man" below in order to simplify the reading.

If you have that core of male energy, there is a common trap to fall into when you stand at the crossroads where one sign reads "Understanding" and the other one says "Being understood".

When the emotional storm hits

When your woman (i.e a person with a core of female energy, not necessarily a womon per se) needs to release their emotional storms, that can sometimes come out in the form of dissent and critical formulations about the situation at home or how life looks in general.

Then it is easy for a man to perceive this criticism as directed against me as a man and that my woman is expressing her dissatisfaction with me as a man. However, most often that is not the case, rather it is really is about feelings that need to come out and be heard and understood.

Under magnetical influence

The moment the man becomes trapped by his feelings of being blamed and is not able to free himself from these, then the choice of route at the crossroad will be heavily influenced by a super magnet pulling him towards the direction that says "Being understodd".

Markus: Ah, how many times I have fallen into the trap of feeling accused or hurt by what I have experienced as criticism from Filippa.

I have then felt misunderstood and with full force devoted myself to once again being understood. Which has inevitably leads us straight into a downward spiral where Filippa does not feel understood and churns out even more of what I perceive as criticism.

Also, how astoundingly magically simple I have experienced the times when I have instead stayed with a focus on understanding her and acknowledged her views and experiences, whether I believe they are right, justified or not.

How like with a stroke of a magic wand, there has a short while later been room for more love between us than before.

Breathing and catching yourself at the crossroads

The man who is able to take a (read; several) deep breath and realize that further down the road that says "Understanding" there is a happy, loving and passionate woman waiting who feels understood, that man will be richly rewarded.

As a man, to abe able to catch yourself at that often emotional moment at the crossroads, to stay standing in your male energy and feel free in the choice of direction at the crossroads, is of decisive nature for the quality, pleasure and fullfilment I am able to create in the relationships I'm involved in.

Homework assignment

During a period of 24 hours, choose to spend your time in each encounter with another human being to immerse yourself fully in efforts to understand the other person.

Make it a game and allow yourself to experiment. Note what the effects may be on both your meetings with people you are familiar with in your everyday life and with strangers.

Couple with laptop studying relationships