In August I wrote a piece called “I Don’t Know.” about how some people need to always give an answer, even when they clearly have no idea what they’re talking
Some people hide from the truth, preferring a murky and unsustainable existence while missing the great experiences and view in front of them.
about. Today I address the flip side of that to talk about how some people lock ambiguity in a bear hug and hold on to it for dear life.
They engage in a Gregorian chant of “I don’t know.” They claim a need for irrefutable proof in order to accept the truth. They call this certainty, or even closure. For instance, when a terrible event like the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center leaves no reason to believe there are any additional survivors, some family members insisted Herculean efforts be made to find and identify the remains before they would accept that their loved one had died. It is the same with widespread natural disasters, horrific plane crashes, fires, or a building collapse.
Insisting on irrefutable truth gives us the excuse to stay stuck where we are in our grief and pain and anger. We hold on to a shred of imagined uncertainty so that we do not have to move forward. We close the door to what is and stay mired in what was. Continue reading
Previously I have talked about how our assumption that what we said was understood in the way we meant it can lead to miscommunication.
We think we hear clearly, but our perceptions and assumptions can distort the true meaning of another’s words, and lead to an incorrect view of reality.
I’ve also talked about how making the assumption that what the other person is going to say is not important enough for us to listen without distraction also leads to miscommunication.
Both a failure to verify the other person has accurately understood what we mean, and a failure to listen, cause misunderstandings in our conversations and ultimately work against our relationships. Our incorrect assumptions weaken our relationships instead of strengthen them because they hide the truth.
There is a third way we weaken our relationships instead of strengthening them and that is when we assume that our interpretation of what another person has said is correct and absolute.
A couple of weeks ago I was on the phone with a friend and at some point I said, “I just need to tell you something.”
We can let off steam in a spectacular display of force and, while venting feels good inside, do nothing to change the cause of our problem.
I then proceeded to tell her about an issue I was having that involved someone else.
After I had shared my frustration over the situation we went on with our main conversation. Afterwards, I wondered why had I done that in the first place?
After a bit of thinking, I realized that while she wasn’t part of the problem, in fact she was an important part of the solution because she had acted as a trusted advisor. She listened well, she empathized, and she helped me explore the situation with the intention of resolving it.