We want to be heard and understood.
Are we, however, willing to hear and understand? How often do we come to a discussion or a conflict with a desire to understand the other person? It is likely that more often we show up wanting to get our point across to the other person. We want the other person to “get” our point of view and validate our stance. “Tell me I’m right, and you are wrong, and we can move on.”
This, however, does not help a relationship grow stronger. It can actually add another brick to a wall between two people. Instead, connection is what we need and desire. Connection is made as each person is willing to seek to understand the other.
Marriage and family researchers have shown that seeking to understand strengthens the relationship bond. In fact, it is probably the most important principle when it comes to interpersonal relationships.
I remember sitting in a counseling session with one of my teenage children practicing this principle of seeking to understand. As I sat there listening to my child, my goal was to hear my child, to listen to the heart of my child, to get to know my child. I truly wanted to understand this child. Once my child felt understood, it was my turn to talk and be understood. I am forever grateful to our counselor for teaching us how to hear and understand each other. There was not a right or wrong reality for either of us; instead, we needed to understand each other. My entire perspective switched from proving my point to understanding her heart. We connected on a deeper level and continue to reap the benefits from learning to apply this principle.
Now, as I work with clients of my own, I am privileged to see their relationships enriched and strengthened as I help them learn how to seek to understand each other.
Tricia Bores, Counseling Intern