Two significant keys in relating, communicating, and understanding others are developing compassion for yourself and empathy for others. Understand that all of us are flawed in some way, and all of us are destined to make mistakes. The more risks you take, the more innovative you are, and the more you strive to improve the world or your life, the more mistakes you’re likely to make along the way.
Try to read between the lines when it comes to others, but also know yourself. The better you understand yourself and what makes you tick, the better you will understand others. Many times the very idiosyncrasies you seem to criticize in others may be found in you. Someone once said, "Beware when you point a finger at someone, because three fingers are always pointing back at you." Before you criticize others, catch yourself.
We all grow up in different environments, with different influences and experiences that shape our opinions and views of life. In essence, you could say that we all come from different "worlds." Due to these differing views, we have our own individual opinions regarding the things in life that are important to us and the things that aren't. In spite of our differing views and opinions, it's important to realize that what constitutes a "good" human being can not necessarily be judged by the external things one sees about them. For example, just because a teenager may have a pierced eyebrow, pierced nose, pierced lip, and tattoos covering his or her body, doesn't mean he or she is a bad person. We must be careful not to prejudge a person's goodness based on how we think goodness should be packaged. That's where understanding comes in. We cannot judge someone until we first try to understand the "world" he or she comes from.
My daughter, now a teenager, is forming her own opinions and establishing relationships. I find that, initially, my advice falls on deaf ears. So I have to remember how it was when I was a teenager. At this stage in my parenthood, patience is a necessity. Part of being patient is just being quiet and listening. She may tell me things that shock me, but I just listen. The world I grew up in and the world she is growing up in are both very different. She is faced with situations at her young age that I did not have to encounter when I was her age. However, to merely get angry that the world has changed and that she is confronted with these situations will not help my daughter. I must try to relate to the world she is living in and offer wisdom, guidance, and sound advice to help her face the challenges that will come her way.
Perhaps there is someone in your life that you find hard to relate to. You just don't “get” him or her—the person’s actions or viewpoints. Take some time to just sit still and think about that person. What may his or her "world" be like? What is the person’s background? Where did he or she come from? Perhaps they are dealing with insecurities, family issues, or other personal issues. Think of ways that you can talk to the person or find out about him or her and begin to develop an understanding. You may never fully understand some people, but endeavor to mentally walk in their shoes as they do. You don't have to agree with them, but try to understand them and be sympathetic to their plight.
By: John Alston