Feeling understood is one of the best feelings there is. While doing some research for this article I noticed in several places that it’s as important as feeling loved. Which makes a lot of sense if you think about it. We’ve all had communication interactions where the conversation seems to go nowhere. Or no matter how hard you try to explain something to the other person they just don’t get it. Something can seem so obvious to you but the other person simply doesn’t get it. Besides becoming completely frustrated ultimately it can lead to extreme loneliness. This is one reason why marriage’s can fall apart – not feeling understood. To help with some of those unable to connect times let’s look at how to help someone feel understood.
Affects All Relationships
When you read the title of this article you probably thought it was about being understood in a marriage. And that’s obviously super important. I think that’s kind of what we all think about when we read something like “How to help someone feel understood”. I don’t know what the percentage of marriages that end in divorce due to spouses not understanding each other but I’m sure it’s no small number. The thing is it’s really important in all of our relationships. As I’ve mentioned a few times I am huge on communication. Communicating and feeling understood go hand in hand. Therefore not only are they important in a marriage, they are also important with friendships. And your boss at work. Not to mention your kids. Plus the neighbors. And so on. With that in mind let’s look at some specific ways of how to help someone feel understood.
How To Help Someone Feel Understood
The first thing that is going to help someone feel understood is to simply show up. Show up in the sense that you care enough to be around them. If someone is having a tough time and wants you to listen then start by showing up. Be there when you say you will be. If it’s work related many times it helps to schedule a meeting or a phone call. When it’s marriage related make sure you carve out the time to speak to your spouse, especially when they are upset about something. If you constantly give off the signal that you aren’t available how understood do you think they will feel? Exactly. Don’t avoid them or always be “too busy”. That simply serves to show the other person you don’t care.
Being reliable in someone’s life will also help in the same way as showing up does. It shows that you care about the person. This is probably more true in some circumstances more than others. I’m thinking about a spouse or a child in particular. When dealing with a teenager who is acting out or rebelling the natural inclination is to put more barriers around them. Grounding or taking away the phone or earlier curfews, that type of thing. What’s more difficult is conveying to them that you are reliable and available to them. With kids it’s easy for feelings of misunderstanding to grow on both sides. There’s lots of “in my day” and “I never” which is our natural go to. The problem is kids don’t give a shit. It’s the same stuff we heard when we were growing up. But make sure that no matter how difficult a teenager is being it is vitally important for them to know you are reliable. Eventually that can pave the way for both sides to feel more understood.
Practice Active Listening
Keep in mind that half of communication is listening. Another good method of how to help someone feel understood is to practice active listening. Remember active listening is being fully present in the moment when someone is talking to you. Don’t look at your cell phone. Keep your eyes on the person speaking. Block out distractions. Do your best to keep your mind clear of floating thoughts so you can fully process what the other person is saying to you. When they see you fully focused on them it gives them the signal that you care enough to really listen and pay attention. And this goes a long way towards helping someone feel understood.
It’s so easy to have an initial snap judgement when someone is sharing something personal with you. To think to yourself “I would never do something like that” or worse, blurt it out. Something that I am capable of is pointing out the reason why something happened. As in there are consequences for actions. This comes from dealing with and attempting to teach my 2 teenage daughters the ways of the world and since you did A this led to B. This is all fine in some ways but in others it’s pointing out the obvious. Most of the time people tend to know in general why something has happened. It doesn’t do them any good to point it out. Trust me, I know. Do your very best to keep your judging thoughts to yourself. It’s going to help out more than you can imagine.
Be understanding. Show the person that you can see why they are upset. By putting yourself in their shoes you are able to create a sense of getting where they are coming from. And as you well know this does wonders for helping to feel understood. It’s not always easy to have empathy, especially when the conversation is heated. That being said it is one of the greatest tools you can have for helping someone feel understood. The power of empathy is an amazing thing.
I’ve Been There
Finally one more way of how to help someone feel understood is to be able to relate a similar situation you’ve been involved in or experienced. Having similar experiences and feelings helps us all connect to each other immensely. This is especially true when going through a difficult time. When we are in a dark place or depressed we feel more lonely. Sometimes it gets incredibly lonely. Speaking to someone else who has felt the same way helps so much. Several years ago when I was going through a tough time I discovered an online forum that helped. It was a forum for guys that had been in a similar previously or were currently struggling. Even though I never met any of these men in person it felt so much better to be part of a group of guys that were sharing common experiences, situations, and outcomes. It was a wonderful resource.
The Lost Art of Listening – by Michael P. Nichols
Listening Well: The Art of Empathetic Understanding – by William R. Miller
The Art of Communication = by Judy Apps
There you have it. 6 great ways for how to help someone feel understood. Feeling understood is one of the basic human needs. When we feel understood it is a wonderful feeling. It creates better connections and does wonders for our relationships. Whenever possible do what you can to help someone feel understood. I’m sure you’ll be glad you did.
In good mental health,