8 things to do when people don’t understand you (practical guide)

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There’s nothing more frustrating than feeling like you’ve said everything you need to say, but for some reason, the person you’re talking with still doesn’t understand your point of view.

It feels like smashing your head against a brick wall that just won’t let up; you don’t know what else to do, because you’ve already tried everything in your power to convince them.

Figuring out how to make someone understand you when they simply refuse to understand you can be extremely difficult, but it’s definitely not impossible.

Oftentimes, the problem isn’t in the argument you’re making, but in how you’re making it.

Here are 8 things to do when someone doesn’t understand you:

1) Ask Yourself: Do You Know What You’re Trying To Say?

Oftentimes when we find ourselves in an argument or a heated discussion, we stop talking with logic and rationality, because it becomes less about what you really need to say, and more about saying whatever you can as fast as possible.

But before thinking that your partner or friend or anyone is just purposefully refusing to understand your point of view, ask yourself: do you actually know what you want to say?

If you take a step back from the discussion and reevaluate what you’ve said (versus what you want to say), you might realize that you’re not actually getting to the heart of your point.

You might have gotten wrapped up in your own flurry of words, and now there’s more emotion than actual logic coming out of your mouth.

So think about it: what do you really want to accomplish with this discussion?

Don’t take another person’s time and attention for granted – make sure you’re actually saying what you want to say, rather than what the argument is pulling out of you.

2) Figure Out If You’re Talking to the Right Person

It’s so disheartening to feel that you’ve made all your points and you’ve said exactly what needs to be said, but your partner in this discussion still doesn’t agree with what you’re saying.

But you have to remember – for a discussion to be fruitful for both parties, there needs to be a genuine interest in participating in the discussion on both sides.

What this means is that perhaps the reason for the continued misunderstanding isn’t that you’re failing to articulate your points, but rather that the person you’re talking to isn’t genuinely in it to hear you out in the first place.

They might not be truly interested in reaching a proper, compromised resolution with you; instead, they might just be here to frustrate you, annoy you, and make you feel worse than you already do.

So take a break from the argument, and try to figure out if this person is being genuine in this discussion or simply in it for selfish reasons.

3) Start From the Real Beginning

Communication is all about truly sharing what you have on your mind.

But what many people find difficult with total communication is identifying the difference between what they’ve said versus what they haven’t said but exists in their mind.

When you begin a discussion with another person, you have to go into it starting from the point of, “I don’t know what they know, and I shouldn’t assume they know anything I haven’t said.”

You might be frustrated feeling like you’ve said everything to this person but they still seem to be so far away from understanding what you mean.

But the truth could be that you’ve barely explained a fraction of the story to them, so how could they feel what you feel – and ultimately agree with you – if they don’t know all the facts?

So circle back, let go of your assumptions, and start from the real beginning. Let them know everything.

4) Understand Why You Need Others to Understand You

Before falling into a pit of annoyance because no one around you seems to understand you, ask yourself this vital question: why exactly do you need other people to understand you?

What is the “need” inside of you that needs to be satisfied?

Is it really important that your partner, your mom or dad, your friend, needs to understand you on this particular thing?

What is their role in this conversation?

Is it truly something that needs to be resolved, or can you continue on your own way without reaching that resolution?

There are times when we just need to take a deep breath and realize that even the people who matter most to us won’t always agree with or understand us.

Perhaps you need approval, validation, support, connection, or anything else from this person. If they simply won’t give it, you must learn how to let go and move on without animosity.

5) Find Out What’s Stopping People from Understanding You

When a person you love doesn’t understand you on something that’s important to you, it can feel like an ultimate act of betrayal.

You can feel disgusted at the fact that they disagree with you on this topic that’s incredibly important to you, and it can taint your relationship moving forward, breeding quiet toxicity until you ultimately find a resolution (that might never happen).

But the problem isn’t always other people.

Sometimes the problem might be you also failing to understand their own circumstances.

Ask yourself – why does this person not understand me?

Why do they find it so impossible to simply agree with me, making this easy for both of us?

What is inside of them that stops them from giving you that agreement?

Is there something in their past that gave them a very different point of view?

Is there something you might not be seeing – something you haven’t thought of or considered – that means just as much to them as this means to you?

6) Don’t Let Your Opinion Represent Your Ego

Having a loved one disagree with you can feel like a personal attack.

Because at the end of the day it’s not just a disagreement on your opinion; it’s a disagreement on your beliefs and your values, which ultimately means a disagreement on how you choose to live your life.

And if you let these thoughts fester, this all ends up going back to your ego.

Your opinions and your ego should not come together. Don’t let criticism or less-than-positive feedback bruise your ego.

People are allowed to disagree with you while still being your best friend, your romantic partner, your family.

Once you start involving your ego, you lose control of all the original purpose of the discussion.

7) Don’t Let Emotion Influence Your Words

If we were all masters of stoicism, there would be no such thing as an irrational or heated argument, because we would all know how to process our feelings before contributing to the discussion.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Most of us struggle to some degree with separating our emotions from our logic; after all, we’re just human.

So when you feel that an argument has gotten to the point that you want to rip your hair out, you’ve gone too far over the emotional line.

At this point, whether you realize it or not, it’s become inevitable that your arguments and your emotions are deeply intertwined, and you’re no longer capable of explaining your thoughts rationally without saying something unnecessary.

Because it’s not about hurting the other person, right?

It’s about communicating, and that means not just controlling your own behavior, but also making sure your partner stays at the table.

If you insult them, curse them, or say anything at all to make them feel attacked, you push them away from a point of trying to understand you, and towards a point of attacking you in response.

8) Stick to the Current Conversation

The terrible thing about arguments is how easily it is to get carried away.

Your conversation with this person – whether it’s your partner, a friend, a relative, or anyone other than a complete stranger – isn’t taking place in a complete vacuum, after all; you two know each other in some way, and there’s always going to be some history, probably both good and bad, between you two.

When a person disagrees with you despite all your logical and rational efforts to convince them otherwise, you essentially find yourself staring down two paths: either you give up and accept that they just don’t agree, or you start using less logical and rational means to get them on your side.

This means you might end up referencing other conversations, other events; the history between you and this person.

You end up bringing up the baggage you have with each other, saying things like, “But what about when you did or said this?”, to convince them that they’re acting hypocritically.

While this can be tempting, it only breeds resentment.

Stick with the topic, because if your point is truly worth agreeing with, then you don’t need to pull in personal pasts to win the argument.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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