Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Being Misunderstood

     It's easy to make assumptions about people. I am a master profiler myself (hold on while I snicker smugly and flick the lint off my shoulder). I learn a lot about folks just by the way they carry themselves, and I ask questions. If you didn't already know, I'm a Realtor from nine to five, it's my job to read people and get 'in their business'. I like to think of myself as more of a noticer than nosy. It's always been easy for me to pick up on subtle nuances in tone, inflections, body language and mood patterns.  Mostly because I have radar ears and x-ray vision and I can smell a secret smothered in peanut-butter and buried in dog poo. It's a gift, really. I'm always searching for what's missing from the puzzle, taking notes on what you're not doing, listening for what I didn't hear you say, generally looking for what's out of character. It's how I bust my kids every. time.

But for someone who possesses such keen sensory superpowers as I, it's taken me twenty-plus years to realize that sometimes my E.S.P. aint so popular with others.  Folks pretty much don't want to be figured out, psychoanalized or dissected. It makes them kind of, "uncomfortable".  I've noticed most people don't show a lot of gratitude when I'm pulling the rug out from under them either. Calling someone out is no way to get brownie points, I have discovered.

Not everyone can be as gifted as I am at judging people though. "Judging", as in observe-and-form-an-opinion, not see-condemn-and-punish.  But on the rare occasion my presumptuous giftings fail me, I can always trace it back to using the wrong brand of judgement, the judgy fault finding self righteous kind of judgement, of the variety of Oops, I'm not looking in the mirror today -or- I didn't care enough to ask questions -or- I'm having my period and am just being an irrational raging bag of hormones.  When I am wrong, I'm usually the put my tail between my legs and crawl under a rock kind of wrong. The sort of wrong that includes the words "I'm" and "sorry." Having to apologize sucks. 

Let's face it, we all struggle with a battle of good vs. evil  from within. Sometimes the bad guy in us gets squeaky wheels and we get caught red-handed in all of our badness. You see, I have a way with words when I'm in an argument. My mom told me once that I talk people into corners when I find an inconsistency in their story, I shoot it full of holes and don't provide them a dignified exit. She said that's just not what people are looking for in a friend. People tend to want friends who will listen to their stories and not later use the sacred information spoken in vulnerable transparency to incriminate or vilify them once a contradiction is uncovered, or worse, they don't want to be misunderstood. People want enough rope to hang themselves, they don't need us to do it for them. What  they do need is grace, what they want are friends who will overlook a variance, they desire love from us that covers their shortcomings and love that sustains in spite of an offense. This desire is not logical or even moral in some instances but it's a human condition, it's what we expect to some degree from those we are close to (and I'm not talking about denying that Aunt Shirley is an alcoholic or pretending cousin Lloyd doesn't beat his wife, for-instance). My point is, we can all be hypocrites at times and need the people closest to us to forgive or ignore an occasional slip or at the very least, give us the benefit of the doubt when things look a little squirrely from where they sit.

It's never been so crystal on such a personal level, how off-putting it feels to have someone carelessly project their intuitive assertions on me without having all the specifics. Recently, a rather above-average perceptive friend of mine made certain judgy-judgments about me before she had all the facts.  Her assesment of me was based on enthusiasm I expressed to her, a few piece-mealed details and couple grains of truth. With her presumptions, she surmised that I was devoting too much time to what she assumed was my new career path, and upon that conclusion she determined I was ultimately neglecting my children. This disturbed and upset her so much so that she quit speaking  to me for months. When she finally voiced her concerns to me I asked her why she hadn't come to me with them sooner. She said it was because she "didn't think it mattered...assumed I wouldn't listen...that it wouldn't do any good" and she didn't want to sound like a dream squasher.  But what I really heard her saying by "it didn't matter" was that she meant, I didn't care about her opinion, and by  "listen" she meant, I wouldn't agree with her, and by "do any good" she meant, I wouldn't do what she said. And because she withheld these things for so long I interpreted her hesitation as a lack of trust in me. 

All is well between my friend and I, now,  and even though it took her months to admit her feelings towards me, she is one of the few special people in my life that would even bother to take the risk. I love her for that. Though I wish we could have avoided our friendly sabbatical, the whole snafu gave me pause. How many times have I  made snap judgements about folks in general and put them on a hook to dry out while I go about saving the rest of the world with my gifts of profound enlightenment?  I need to be more careful, I have decided. Sometimes our strengths are the very thing that cause us to trip...or fall head first into a pile of crow.
I'd love to hear about your experiences with being misunderstood. How have you handled a situation positively when you've been wrongly accused? What percentage of disagreements in your life do you think are attributed to misunderstanding rather than a concrete problem?

1 comment:

Christina said...

Well I am glad you can see it from another perspective.Its not easy to empathize with other people sometimes but it says a lot about your character that you would even try. Good on you!