To Be Understood

“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” ~Lucius Annaeus Seneca

smileyI’m used to qualifying what I say. You know: “What I meant was…” or “I hope you know… wasn’t what I meant.” That’s because too often I’ve been misunderstood. I think it has something to do with expectation. If the other person assumes I’m saying one thing when I’m really saying another it can be incredibly difficult to change their mind. This is especially true in writing, but it can happen anytime.

So it’s ridiculously rare to find those who understand what I mean without the qualifications. That’s why when I do locate them I hang on for dear life because it’s hard enough living day to day when everyone else doesn’t “get” me. Don’t get me wrong. I know I’m not the only one in the history of this world who feels misunderstood, who doesn’t live life in a zone-free bubble. But because it’s a recurring them with me I’m thinking maybe I should change how I interact with others.

My wife says I have a unique sense of sarcasm that is hard to spot because I do it so often that it can seem authentic. Maybe I’ve convinced myself that I’m really good at it, but saying something and then laughing at my own unique sense of sarcasm is a no-no. It’s like texting “I hate that color on you :)” The presence of the smiley, or of the laugh, means absolutely nothing, even though I think it means everything. I force myself to remember that the words are most important.

Perhaps the reason I’m often misunderstood is because half the time I can’t even understand myself, or at least understand my reasons for what I do and say. That’s where it really begins. If I want to be understood I need to analyze myself and my rationale. Before I paste a smiley on the end of a sarcastic statement maybe I need to think about whether or not the statement truly is sarcastic. I might just be saying what I mean, and hoping that others don’t take it seriously by tacking on a laugh.

But I’m not fooling anyone, not even myself, not anymore. And my wife is right, of course. She can understand what I really mean, and she wants me to understand it for myself. But she could never make me see it. She could only take the picture and turn the camera around to face me. I had to see it for myself, in my sad smile, and in my vacant eyes. Now they’re wide open, and I’m finally willing to second-guess myself. It’s a first step.



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