Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
Today, I want to talk with you about something I have sensed happening both online and in real life interactions. It’s something I notice because it’s something I have experienced in the past. So when I saw it occurring, I knew it was something I wanted to talk about.
And that is the fear of being misunderstood.
I see it when there’s an important topic we are discussing with someone else, and maybe we don’t know what to say, or maybe we’re talking about something, but others don’t seem to get our point. They just have this confused look on their face.
And sometimes, we try to explain it in a different way, but that makes them even more confused.
And then maybe they ask some questions, but you don’t know how to answer them.
And so you get frustrated because you can’t seem to communicate clearly, and they get frustrated because they want to understand, but they can’t. And it’s just not good. We’re all frustrated and we’re at a standstill and maybe it even puts an obstacle between you and the other person.
Have you ever been there?
I experience this with our kids sometimes. They have something they are trying to tell us, but for whatever reason, I just can’t wrap my head around it. Especially our little guy. He speaks pretty clearly, but sometimes, I just don’t know what he’s trying to say. And just like the example above, he tries it again, but I still don’t understand, so I ask him questions, and he doesn’t know how to answer them. And then he gets frustrated and I get frustrated and we just have to let it go because there’s a block there.
I remember when I was younger and I had to go to the speech teacher in elementary school because I had a hard time saying my “r” sounds. And so I worked with her on it. And one day she asked me what the hardest words to say were.
And I said squirrel. But she heard square. So I tried to say squirrel again, but she still heard square. And I was shy enough and young enough that I didn’t know how to correct her, how to help her understand what I was trying to say. And so I just nodded my head, almost in tears, just so she would move on.
Even in something somewhat inconsequential like that, where I simply had a hard time pronouncing the word, it was frustrating. But it also made me question why I couldn’t get her to understand what I was saying.
And there are times when I still feel like that today. Maybe we’re having a discussion about something that really matters to me, so I, introvert that I am, finally find the courage to share my own thoughts and ideas about it. And the other person just doesn’t get what I’m trying to say. So I go back into my shell and clam up.
Have you ever been there?
If you can relate, I want to share a few tips with you today about what you can try to do to minimize these situations or to help you work through them. Because while there are times you can just let it go, there are other times when you need to help the other person understand what you are saying, even if they don’t agree with it.
Like when you are explaining your health care choices, that you want this treatment but not that one. Or when you express what you need from your spouse in your relationship. Or when you need to express boundaries with family member who just doesn’t seem to get it. Or when you’ve been through something challenging and want to share it with a close friend who may not understand why it was so traumatic for you.
Do any of these sound familiar?
What can we do when we are afraid of being misunderstood in a situation?
Ask God for Wisdom and Courage
First, I always want you to ask God to help you find the words—and the courage and clarity to say them.
God knows you, He knows what is stirring on your heart, He knows the person you are going to be talking to, He knows what words or examples will help that person understand. So ask for His help!
James 1:5 (NLT) says, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God and he will give it to you.”
Ask for the specific words and phrases to use.
Ask for examples or illustrations to share.
Ask for the courage to talk with this person.
Ask for the ability to speak clearly and with love.
Ask for God to provide a good opportunity to speak with that individual.
Ask God and then listen for His guidance. If a word or phrase comes to mind, write it down. If a story comes to mind, try to remember it fully so that you can retell it. As you hear from God, you’ll learn to trust those sacred nudges from Him.
Think About the Other Person
Second, identify what you know about the other person.
- Is there anything about them that you need to keep in mind?
- Have they been through anything similar that might impact how they see this situation?
- Where do they currently stand on this issue? For example, do they want you to get a certain treatment, but you are opting for something else?
- Are there any relationship issues, other things that might be getting in the way of you having an honest conversation with them?
- Is there anything that they might take offense to in your conversation?
- Is there anything they might not understand or have a prior knowledge of? For example, if you have an illness, do they know what that illness entails, how it affects you?
- Do they have a hard time seeing or hearing?
- What kind of communication do they prefer?
A big part of communication is actually about the audience, not the speaker. So as you consider what is important to you, also think about what is important to them and try to find ways to honor that as you speak to them.
Boil It Down to One Sentence
Third, try to boil down your main point into one sentence. Now, in almost all cases, you will want to talk this thing out a little bit, but by being able to narrow it down to a single sentence, you are clarifying—for yourself and for the other person—what the main point is.
In public speaking, this is simply what we called the Big Idea. If they forget everything else you say, what is the one thing you want them to hold onto and remember? In this case, what is the one thing you want them to know and understand?
Let me give you a few sentences you can try out:
- “I want this because ______.”
- “This is important to me because ______.”
- “When I come home with the baby, I need you to do this: ______.”
- “I’m choosing this treatment so that ______.”
- “I need you to help me in this way because ______.”
- “I don’t want you to ______ because it ______.”
- “If this happens, I want you to ______.”
Does that help? If you could boil it down to one point, what would it be?
Try to Write It Out
Fourth, especially for those of us who are more introverted, try to write it out in advance. Think through what you want to say. Take the time to find the right words.
Now, sometimes I can do this if I just sit down for 10 minutes and write out a potential conversation with someone or try to journal through it. But sometimes this comes as I am laying in bed at night and the house is quiet and my mind is resting, and I’m not actually trying to write anything… but everything I want to say kind of runs through my head, and so I get out my phone real quick and try to type out as much as I can remember.
And while I don’t read from that or anything during the actual conversation, and you probably won’t read from what you write down either, actually going through the words and practicing them in this way helps you get ready to speak them out loud to someone else.
Now, could you just read what you wrote out loud to someone else? Sure, there are times when that might be appropriate. I’m just saying that the act of writing them out in the first place can help you find the words you want to say.
You can even test out a few different ways to say it, see what feels right to you. Make it a game, even. How many ways can you say it? Then pick parts and pieces that resonate with you.
Practice with a Safe Person
There’s one more thing you can do to help prepare you to have this important conversation: practice it with a safe person.
Maybe you pull your spouse or your best friend aside and pretend they are other person and just practice getting the words out. Practice looking them in the eye. Practice saying it with a loving tone.
If you’re going on a walk for the real conversation, go for a walk for the practice one. As much as you can mimic the conversation, the more you are getting your mind and body ready.
Because the more times you say something, the more confidence you’ll have. Trust me, I was a public speaking instructor. I know! So even if you can’t grab someone else to practice with, just practice saying it out loud to yourself. It makes a difference.
But Realize This…
But my friend, there’s something I need you to know, and I don’t want you to misunderstand me here, okay?
There are times when you just need to let go of helping someone else understand. You have to be able to stand firm in what you know, in what God has called you to do, whether or not others “get it.”
I can’t tell you the number of times when I’ve shared a decision I’ve made, often doing something God has called me to do, or maybe just a choice that is the best fit for me and my family, and others don’t understand.
And that’s okay.
Sometimes there truly are no words to explain. And while it might be frustrating for some, because they really do want to understand, it’s just the way it is sometimes. It’s a chance for all of us to surrender to the Lord and trust Him.
Trust the Lord.
Okay? So when you are in a situation where you are afraid of being misunderstood, you can ask God for help, you can identify what you know about the other person, you can try to boil your message down to one main point, you can try to write it out in advance to help you find the right words, and you can practice with a safe person. Try one of them or try them all… whatever seems best for you.
Now, when I was preparing for this episode, it reminded me of episode 15, which was about How to Decline Someone’s Offer of Help Gracefully. There’s just some similarities and overlaps here, and it will provide you with more specific tips if it revolves around helping someone know how they can—and can’t—help you in a difficult season. And actually, it’s one of the most downloaded episodes. So if you haven’t had the chance to listen to it yet, I encourage you to check that out.
Okay, that is all for today, my friends. Until next time… let’s encourage one another.
RESOURCES + BIBLE VERSES:
- “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5 NLT)
- Episode 15: How to Decline Someone’s Offer of Help Gracefully
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