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Misunderstandings and relationships - what helps

Misunderstandings are unfortunately very common when dealing with others. This does not always lead to conflicts but often creates tension and avoiding the person involved in the misunderstanding. But why are those incidents so frequent?

First of all it can be already very complicated understanding our own minds; many times one can feel uncertain, confused or simply can struggle to identify his/her own state of mind. In those circumstances explaining our internal thoughts and desires to someone else can become extremely challenging. Moreover, when in a relationship, one has to deal also with the partner’s mind and his/her possible difficulties. It does become quite easy to understand why relationships can be as much rewarding as complicated.

Most of the time misunderstandings occur because one assumes and guesses what the other is thinking or why he/she acted out in a specific way. Making interpretations out of the partner’s mind is more common than one might think. We do it all the time, not just in the context of romantic relationships but also with friends, relatives, colleagues. And this is where often the problem stems from; assuming that the other’s mind works exactly like our does. Furthermore when there is a history of difficulties within the relationship and/or one is overwhelmed by strong emotions, such as sadness and anger, assuming is the easiest thing to do. In fact it does not require any effort to understand the other’s perspective and/or reasons; it is almost automatic. Making sense of  someone else’s  behaviour help us to contain the anxiety of ‘not knowing why’ but, in actual fact, it is a bias which often leads to misunderstandings.

What can help?

An open and direct communication is the best way to tackle misunderstandings. This does not mean having a confrontation but simply asking the right questions. For example if the partner looks particularly upset or grumpy one can ask ‘What did happen?’ without assuming and keeping an open mind. If it is the other way round and the other person has done something upsetting one can say - without attacking before knowing the other’s perspective -  ‘Can I ask you why you behaved in that way, knowing you were going to upset me?’

Opening the communication, not making interpretations, being able to stay in the grey area until clarifying are all actions that can strongly benefit romantic relationships as well as relationships in general.

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