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by Andrea Blundell
Often feel completely misunderstood? And it frustrates to you? To the point you find yourself accusing partners or friends by asking, “And how well do you me, anyway?”.
Learning how to communicate so that you are seen and heard can end this cycle of pushing others away for not ‘getting’ you.
Does it really matter if I’m understood?
A research study using magnetic resonance imaging found that when we feel understood, it sees us using the part of our brain that leads to social connection and feeling rewarded.
When we feel misunderstood, it activates regions connected to ‘negative affect’. In other words, we are more likely to feel depressed and alone.
Another research study that had people journal daily found they reported greater life satisfaction and even less physical illness and complaints on the days they felt understood by others.
How well do you know me?
The answer here could be, “As well as I let myself be known”.
When nobody seems to understand us, it can often be as we are, without realising it, blocking people from seeing who we are. We are:
Communicating who you are
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If we feel constantly misunderstood it can signal that we need to invest some substantial time in getting to know ourselves better. We need to nail down our personal values, our boundaries, our true wants and needs.
But we can also make a lot of change in our level of being understood by troubleshooting our communication.
1. Create space to be wrong.
Endless pleasing means we never say what we truly think or want for fear of being judged as wrong or silly. And if this is a longstanding pattern for you, it’s not likely that suddenly transitioning to just stating your mind is going to happen.
What can help with the transition can be creating room to be wrong. This involves literally saying the phrase in conversations.
When you want to share a thought or need that you feel shy about, just outright start by saying, I could be wrong, but….”. For example, “Look, I could be wrong here, but I feel uncomfortable about the way this trip is organised.”
2. Slow down and make time to decide.
This can also create more time for you to make a decision. “I could be wrong, but this is how I feel right now.” This means you can always change your mind.
Otherwise, learn to ask for time to think over feeling pressured to make snap decisions and doing things that give people the wrong idea about who you are.
“I need time to think about it” is perfectly fair. As is saying, “to be honest I am not really sure what I feel about this right now, I’ll get back to you.”
3. Say no for now, not yes for now.
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Most of us, if we have a streak of codependency or grew up needing to please our parents or caregivers to get the attention a child needs? Have a default setting of saying ‘yes for now’.
We say, ‘I guess I could”, “I think maybe I can,” “sure, I guess”. And then feel angry that the other person can’t see we don’t really want to the thing in question.
Avoid this trap by learning to say ‘no for now’.
- “I’ll say no for now and have a think.”
- “Sounds interesting, I’ll say no for now and let you know’.
- “Yes sure I could do that, but I’ll say no for now and think it over’.
4. Start sentences with “I feel”.
Blame language is the number one way to push others back and leave them too scared to try to get know you.
It generally sounds like, “You make me feel….”. “When you do this it makes me…” The second you are leading with that ‘you’, it’s usually. sign of blame mode.
Non blame language starts with ‘I’. The classic structure here is, “I feel this when you do that”.
So instead of coming on strong with “You make me feel so annoyed when you don’t ask how I am”, we find ourselves saying, “I feel quite sad when you don’t ask me how I am.” The phrase goes from aggression to vulnerability, allowing the other to respond without feeling threatened.
5. Call yourself out.
Most of us defensive types know full well when we are going into defence mode or not being ourselves. It’s a floaty, watching yourself feeling.
Nip it in the bud by actually calling yourself out and sharing.
- “I am not really being myself in this moment’.
- “I am struggling to be myself for some reason.”
- “It’s interesting but I can feel I’m not being myself.”
Not only does this tend to stop the pattern, it’s a moment of authenticity and vulnerability. Both of which allow the other person to see you and connect to you and try to understand you.
6. Stop talking.
Sometimes the best way to talk to be seen and heard is to, well, press pause and not talk.
If we have social anxiety, if we tend to blather or go into cracking endless jokes, or telling endless stories as if we are only valuable if we are entertaining? It’s hardly surprising people don’t understand us. We get lost in the deluge of words.
You can again call yourself out here. “I’m talking too much here.” Or ask to reconvene. “I’m talking too much, maybe let’s hang up now and talk later”. It also works to ask the other person to step in. “I’m blathering. Tell me about you.”
7. Get help with communication.
If ‘how well do you know me’ is always ‘not very well at all’ despite best efforts? It might be another issue that really means our communication is beyond our control.
This could be:
- Anxiety disorder, which leaves our mind in overdrive.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) which means the connect between our mind and mouth can be beyond our ability to control.
- Emotional dysregulation, where our emotional ‘thermostat’ moves too fast, and leaves us impulsively sharing our feelings in a way that can scare others off.
- Autism spectrum disorder, which means our natural way of communicating is very different than the average way.
Suspect your communicating is related to deeper childhood issues or a disorder? We connect you with some of London’s most highly regarded mental health experts. Or use our online booking platform to find an affordable UK-wide talk therapist.
Want to share your personal experience of asking, “how well do you know me?’. Or your tips to be seen and heard? Use the comment box below.
Andrea Blundell is a mental health writer who has penned literally thousands of popular self help and psychology articles. She has a particular interest in relating, communication, and connection.