Seek First To Understand Then To Be Understood

seek first to understand

“As I was walking to school this morning, I noticed people were lined up to four blocks waiting for the bank to open. The bank did not open for another two hours. Why do they do this?” -she asked our Spanish teacher.

“It is the beginning of the month,” the teacher replied, “those people get their salaries or  government checks deposited in their accounts. They are there to withdraw their money…”

Another student interrupted, “What is up with you people using only use cash everywhere? It is so inconvenient and you get discounts when you use credit cards!”

“We don’t use credit cards because of the interest rates, although there are discounts, it ends up costing a lot more.”

“That’s not true! You don’t know how to manage your and save your money. It is like all the line ups everywhere you go. It does not make any sense that people need to make three different line ups at Mc Donald’s or some bars to buy ice cream or get a drink. One line to place your order, another to pay and another to get your ice cream or drink. Why do you need three people to do the job of one person? It is very frustrating for the customer and time consuming. How do you people want to compete with the rest of the world?”

Let’s say you go see one doctor, you tell him that your back has been hurting for quite some time now. This particular doctor gives a prescription for pain killers and sends you on your way. Now, suppose you decide to go see another doctor for the same problem. This doctor starts asking you all kinds of questions; do you work standing up or sitting down? He asks you to do a few movements to observe your daily habits. He sends you to have some x-rays taken. After analyzing all these results, he gives you a clear diagnosis of how the problem originated. He gives you a series of clear instructions and exercises that will fix the problem for good.

Which one will you be more likely to follow? Most probably the second one, right? He is the one who took the time to first understand where the problem came from and prescribed clear instructions to fix it. 

The same is true in communicating. We often jump to give people a prescription without first seeking to understand the other person.

Unless people truly trust you and believe you understand them, they will not be very eager to be influenced by you.

She turned to him and in an empathetic tone replied: “You probably heard about the 2001 crisis in Argentina. One morning, we woke up and everything was taken away from us. People lost their jobs, the government dramatically cut on public-sector wages, pensions and a delay in pension benefits for over 1 million retirees and their families. Furthermore, unemployment rate sky rocked, their were no unemployment insurance or other social services, they had all been cut as well. The banks froze all our money, we were allowed to withdraw a small amount per month, not enough to live on. This led to a very high percentage of the poverty level.

We did everything to survive, we helped each other, we held “flee markets” where we would exchange goods with each other.

So many people were forced to leave their homes because they could no longer afford them. The population in the slum neighborhoods grew drastically.

I know it’s hard for you to understand, coming from a strong country,unless you lived it like we did, felt it, saw the hardship, you will never fully comprehend.

For us, having to do three line ups to get an ice cream, means that there are three people who have the opportunity to help support their families. Our economical situation is not stable, people fear that another crisis could happen at any time. They prefer having their cash money in their homes, under their mattresses than in the bank.”

When we judge others (in everyday life situations), we are portraying who WE really are. 

It Demonstrates our frustration and annoyance with how everyone and everything around us are and our desire for them to be how we want them to be. 

When we start to open our minds to the fact that certain behaviors are a build up of a person’s beliefs, up bringing or a difficult moment in their lives, we will accept that not everyone thinks and acts the way we do.

If you take the time to fully understand the person first, your approach will be filled with understanding and compassion. The trick is to ask questions and listen! They will feel that you are truly trying to help them and will be more receptive to what you have to say. In the process, you will learn so much, not only about the person, but on developing better relationships. 

In the words of Paulo Coelho, 

“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.”

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This entry was posted in Cleansing Your Beliefs and tagged , .

14 Responses to Seek First To Understand Then To Be Understood

  1. Pingback: The Biggest Regret Ever

  2. Pingback: The World is my Home: 5 Life Lessons From my Traveling Journey

  3. Ozer Tayiz says:

    While I understand the frustration of both sides, I feel still closer to the questioning women who does not understand why there are 3 people doing one man’s job, and why there are 3 lines.

    Ultimately, inefficiency will be wiped out of free market. Most of what that man in Argentine compains about the time of crisis, is caused by the actions of government which does not make any sense in a free market, which has roots in this type of inefficient thinking. I would doubt the man who says “For us, having to do three line ups to get an ice cream, means that there are three people who have jobs. We accept this, it means that three people have the opportunity to help support their families.” would choose the same ice cream shop over a competitor offering faster service at a lower price -because he does not need to employ 3 people, just one-. You can not create jobs without creating value that the market demands. You can not create jobs by being inefficient. And you cannot do a man a favor by giving him money that he does not deserve by giving him a job that is totally unnecessary in the first place. Otherwise every country would get rich and developed just by giving money to people who do nothing, or people who spend time digging holes in the ground, just to fill them up tomorrow. Takes lots of hard work, but creates no value.

    There are many ways to get out of poverty, even to achieve riches, but none of them include someone else handing out everything you want without any value you give back in return.

    They all include rising up to the challenge, accepting more responsibility, and creating and delivering more value to the marketplace… In fact, for an entrepreneur, these times of crisis are times of vast opportunity. There will be more millionaires made, more businesses to succeed, IF they have the right attitude.

    While I do understand the message of “listen before you speak”, I do also believe that nature and economy and free markets, has some unbreakable laws of cause and effect, just like gravity. And only way to change the circumstances you are in, is to understand and analyse how you created them in the first place, and then create a new one.

    The men complaining about crisis is putting himself in the position of a victim. You cannot be a victim or a creator at the same time. All of the problems he is describing, are opportunities for business solving them. If people don’t trust the banks anymore, why not set up a new community bank which is based on sound money, no interest, and microcredit? If people cannot afford houses in the cities anymore, why not offer them hexayurts that are better than tents or anyhting else that they can come up with on their own, and can still afford…

    The problem lies more in how people see themselves. If they are feeling like victims, no one will be able to give them all they need. Even if one of them won the lottery or something, it wont last long. Because they wont know what to do with it all and lose it to non-lasting little pleasures.

  4. Chas says:

    PS~ Thank you so much for turning me on to Paulo Coelho; the quotes in your header gave me the incentive to look him up.

  5. Chas says:

    Antonia,
    Thank you for sharing this story- sometimes, in the U.S., we forget how much worse circumstances can be in other parts of the world. At the same time, what we are going through in the U.S., I believe, is that many are being harshly judged who have lost their homes &/or have been unemployed for an extended time. (I also believe age discrimination is in full swing, despite the laws that are supposed to prevent this).
    I love the name of your blog and the general feel of the site. I discovered it because of a comment you left on Natalie’s blog, and have now bookmarked your site.

    • Antonia says:

      Hi Chas, Love your comment (really glad you discovered it:)), thanks for your insight! You are so right! It is not only in the U.S., sometimes we all feel that we are the only ones going through our life challenges. We think that what we know is all there is to know. So, we forget…

  6. Jenna says:

    We are sooo quick to judge….there is such a huge lack of understanding in this world. Thanks for opening our minds and our hearts in this matter Antonia.

    • Antonia says:

      Hi Jenna, Absolutely! When we open our minds to understand, not only do we eliminate judgement, we also open our minds towards growing to become a better person!

  7. jean kukla says:

    Indeed! When I was in Cuba, I had to go to the bathroom at the airport before boarding; there was a lady at the entrance of the bathroom who’s job was to direct you where to urinate!!! We all thought how ridiculous; she expected a tip for pointing out where to go…It puts things in perspective; the quote from Paulo Coelho is very relevant and just…When in Rome… Gracias!

    • Antonia says:

      Hi Jean, thanks for sharing your experience! Isn’t it amazing how when we see certain things from a different perspective we do not feel as frustrated with those situations!

  8. Petrouchka Levesque says:

    Antonia!!
    This is soooooooooooo true, so well described and explained… The need to adapt!!
    This will give you the chance to be opened mind, which enables you to capture zillions of positive energies, which lead you in the road of happiness. It’is just not worth to give importance to those little things… Which ultimately makes Life so beautiful…
    Pétrouchka :-)

    • Reibaud says:

      Tres bel article et tres juste. Je comprends mieux maintenant certains comportements de nos amis sud americains. Ça m’a fait également réfléchir sur ma façon de percevoir les choses et les gens. Merci pour cet article Antonia. Cyril

      • Antonia says:

        Salut Cyrile, Merci d’avoir partage tes sentiments! Quand on prends le temps de reflechir sur notre facon de percevoir les choses et les gens, on elimine beaucoup de frustration:)

    • Antonia says:

      Hi Petrouchka

      So true, sometimes we do put an importance on little things of no importance…

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