Well, honestly, there’s nothing you can do about it!
A follower on Instagram asked me this question: “What do you do when someone refuses, despite your best efforts, to understand you – and what if that someone happens to be a close family member?”
I had a few relevant learnings to share. One is that honest conversations are critical for divergent views to be expressed and for close relationships to thrive. At least one member of the family must be allowed to play the role of an objective arbitrator to facilitate constructive confrontation in specific contexts. Second, it is futile to convince people who don’t want to understand you, despite your best efforts. If there is a misunderstanding you can present evidence, you can sit down, clarify and seek an understanding. But what if there is a concerted, sometimes even manipulative, effort to not want to understand you? Then, the best approach is silence. When you don’t stoke an argument, when you don’t try to prove anymore that you are right, when you let others hold on to what they believe is the truth, then distances may prevail alright – but there won’t be any further acrimony. Third, don’t hold on to what has been said about you, to judgments that have been passed. You can’t always erase the memory of a hurt, but don’t hold on to the hurt itself. Set it down, let it go. You don’t have to either pretend to be close or be awkwardly cold to people you can’t relate to anymore, but letting go of what they did to you can dissolve all hostility. And that contributes big time to your inner peace.
My own experiences (Read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal) in Life have taught me that it is perfectly fine when you can’t relate to some members of your family. I have come to realize that no one person is right or wrong. Each one is entitled to their view. The key question is whether you are able to relate to the view being expressed. When you are not, just move on. Don’t try to challenge, or convince, or change the other person. There really is no point grieving over a situation which requires more than just your integrity and intention to bridge the distances. Such is Life. At best, when an opportunity arises, you speak your mind. Be detached, be dispassionate. Just say what you feel is important for you to say. Don’t expect anyone to be convinced. And leave things as they are.
A couple came to us wondering how they can separate while ensuring that their children are not affected. I shared how my friend and his wife worked out a win-win arrangement, based on my advice, that has helped them both immensely. On this Podcast, I talk about how it is possible for a couple to set aside their differences if they choose to keep their children at the centre of their Universe. Any fight that is ego-driven is not worth it. Focus instead on a “working arrangement” when the relating between two people goes out the window.
Listen time: 5:31 minutes
What do you do when, sometimes, people don’t want to understand you? And you have stopped relating to them? Move on… In today’s Podcast I champion that you must protect your inner peace – because that’s all you have got and only you are responsible for it! Listen time: 4:03 minutes
Choose to be amused, curious, bewildered about people’s behavior – and not bitter!
“Why can’t some people understand us? No matter what we say or do, why is there only an effort to misunderstand by them,” asked a reader on FB Messenger yesterday.
My answer: “Such is Life. That’s just the way some people are.”
Indeed. I see no other explanation for the way some people behave. In fact, personally, I have even reached a stage when I don’t even want to understand – or explain – why some people behave the way they do. Ultimately, everyone does what they think is right. If they thought otherwise, they would not be doing what they are doing! Simple.
The other day, members of my estranged, fractious, family were trying to reach me for a reason. I was preoccupied for a while and so I did not respond immediately to any of them. But the number of messages they pounded me with on WhatsApp, SMS, FB Messenger, e-mail, the number of calls they made, and the tone of their messages indicated that they felt I was deliberately avoiding them. We haven’t been in touch for several years now. Nothing much has changed in the equation among us. But to assume, within an hour of sending someone a message, or after calling them, that they are avoiding you, I believe is being, unfortunately, judgmental.
I wasn’t angry with the tone my family employed. I was amused. And I guess that’s a good way to deal with people that don’t understand you or perhaps that don’t want to understand you. Respond with amusement, not anger. If you look at it objectively, people know what they are doing. If they are saying something nasty about you, or to you, or if they are doing something irrational, illogical, unkind and unjust to you, they are doing it only because they want to do it. I have realized that you can’t stop someone who’s determined to do what they want to do. So, I just let them be. I live in the comfort that the opinions they hold of me, the way they choose to express themselves to me and their actions cannot affect my inner peace.
Actually, it is equally fascinating to see how different people look at the same situation or at the same person differently. This variety makes for an interesting study of human behavior. I am eternally curious to see how people imagine or think up plots, sub-plots, theories and conspiracies in plain, mundane situations. Without such colorful imagination, I believe, Life will be boring. So, I have learnt to let people’s machinations and manipulations, their interpretations and misuderstandings, keep me entertained. I don’t crave for being understood anymore. If they are choosing to be the way they are, it is only appropriate that I remain the way I must really be – unruffled, curious, bewildered, and never bitter!
If someone sees you as their problem, it is, seriously, their problem – not yours!
A friend called me to share how his sister has been making Life miserable for him in their large, century-old family business. Although a formal separation has been gone through between them, my friend’s sister is insinuating and charging her sibling with transgressions and non-compliance. Resultantly, their dispute has ended up in court. While everyone understands the futility of having to fight things over in courts in India, they want to cling on to their stance. This has led to a stalemate of sorts between the parties. My friend however is wrecked by the emotional toll that this whole affair is having on him. “I have no problem with her. And I have no problem with the share of the business that I have been left with to manage. With some mediation, we can resolve the legal issues. But I feel very, very disturbed that my own sister has a problem with me,” lamented my friend.
Now, this could be anybody’s story. People often have problems with other people. And if you happen to be, like my friend, with whom someone has a problem, you too may want to learn to simply ignore it. What can you do if someone has a problem with you? At best you can hear their point of view and if there’s something to learn, something to unlearn and something to change in you, you can go to work on it. But what if someone continues to have a problem with you despite your best efforts and intentions to appease them? More important, what if you are someone’s problem – not what you do or what you don’t do? Well, the most sensible response must be to shrug off that viewpoint saying ‘too bad’ and move on. It is when you lack that discerning ability, and instead grieve over why you are being perceived wrongly, that you suffer.
When you grieve and suffer over such, often inconsequential, opinions, you sometimes end up becoming a problem for yourself. And that’s such a sad thing to happen. So, develop a more evolved and mature view of Life. You can only control what you think and do. You cannot control what others think and do. So, if someone’s insists on having a problem with you, let them have the pleasure of keeping it that way! Why work overtime to displease or dissatisfy them?
A lot of our suffering comes from our desire to be understood by others.
I was treated shabbily by an autorickshaw driver the other day. He mocked at me and said that I appear to be well-off; so I must give him the full hundred rupees (post-demonetization, a Rs.100/- note has trophy value!) I held in my hand. I was willing to pay him Rs.80/- for a ride that possibly may have cost only Rs.50/-. But the man was impertinent. I was low on money (not just on physical cash, but low on funds itself!) and so I wanted to economize. Rs.20/- may not have mattered to me on another day. But just now, as I stood in front of this man, it did matter a huge deal to me. But before I could say anything further, the man, perhaps so used to such situations, made an uncalled-for remark, “You rich people must understand the plight of us, the poor, and not exploit us!” I was livid. I thrust the Rs.100/- in his hand and walked away fuming.
For about 15 minutes after that episode, I kept thinking about what the man had said. Here I was, I thought, struggling for over 10 years, to fix a business and Life situation (read more here: Fall Like A Rose Petal). And there he was making a totally erroneous and unwarranted assumption about me. The remark was now beginning to chew me up, it kept hitting me where it hurts the most, my debilitating financial situation. Then, thanks to me training my mind through mouna (daily silence periods) over the years, my awareness stepped it. And it helped me reason with myself: What does this man know about me or my story? Therefore, isn’t it futile to expect him, a Chennai autorickshaw guy, to be understanding?”
The autorickshaw driver is just a metaphor here. And my experience in this episode too is reflective of the human craving for being understood all the time. This is what happens to all of us in most contexts and this is why misunderstanding creeps into relationships.
It is normal for communication to be misunderstood and misinterpreted by others at times. Just as a spelling mistake is possible in a simple word, so is a misunderstanding possible in relationships. And all of it is caused by how someone wants to interpret what is being said or imagine that something else, than what is being said, is being implied! In a situation when there is repeated breakdown of communication, or even aggravated, angry, violent expressions, it is best to remain quiet. And, more importantly, it is best to give up the need to be understood.
Yes, as it happened with me, you may lose your cool, your inner peace momentarily. But if you have trained your mind, your awareness will step in help you overcome the turmoil. Deep, silent, private reflection always helps.
Sometimes, in some irreparable situations, you may also require to remain quiet and detached from the people involved for long periods of time. Maybe even for years at a stretch. This is true in all contexts; with parents, children, spouses, siblings, extended families, friends, neighbors or workplace teams. Time and the truth alone can heal such situations. On the other hand, when you try to force, often in vain, an understanding and try to get people to see you the way you want to be seen, you will undoubtedly suffer. But you have a choice not to suffer in the throes of the pain that such misunderstandings can cause. Just stop feeling pity for yourself, stop demanding that you are understood, and your suffering will cease. The pain may still be there, and so will the factors causing the pain, but you will not suffer.
Accept that this strained situation is the current reality that you have to live with. Give the situation love by practising forgiveness – forgive yourself and the others involved too. Who started a fracas or misunderstanding first is immaterial, just accept being a co-creator of the situation and forgive everyone. Slowly, surely, you will find yourself becoming peaceful. When one person is at peace, the entire circle of influence of that person, even if people are estranged, benefits from the peace. Be a peace champion. Begin with yourself.
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If you cannot get along with someone, so be it. Try to understand that someone. If you can’t, don’t force yourself to and don’t grieve. Just let things be.
At the core of all human conflict is a lack of understanding between people. Now, if two people develop a lack of understanding between them, they can first – and must – attempt to understand each other. It is because each sees their point of view as right, as the truth, that there is a stand-off.
A good way to begin a reconciliation is to see the other person’s point of view, her or his truth, and review your own. Can their truth be a part of yours? Can yours be a part of theirs? If neither approach works, just agree to disagree and move on. Bottomline: don’t feed the negativity that the difference of opinion has created in the first place.
But what do you do when the other person is close relative, a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend, a colleague – someone who you must (or have to) interact with on a daily basis? What if the other person does not even want to resolve the issue, does not want to understand you, your point of view or your truth? Well, I would advise that you make the same effort: try to either erase the negativity or try not to feed it anymore. But despite your best intentions and initiative, if nothing is working out, just let it be. Be operationally available and cordial. And stay away from any additional interactions.
In a third scenario when the person’s presence itself is a source of negativity in you, when you feel that each time you are in her or his company, you see your inner peace being destroyed, well, try to work on a physical separation from that person. This may seem improbable as a suggestion often only because the relationship you have with the person may be too complex to afford a physical peeling off. Even so, if something has to be done in the interests of protecting your inner peace, you have to do it. Nobody can do this for you. What must be done, must be done. Here’s the moot point: either you do what you must do about protecting your inner peace or you stop complaining about a situation that ruins your inner peace!
Always remember this: our lives are too short for us to dwell on the pettiness of things that some people drag us into. If you want inner peace, you must be willing to do whatever it takes to ensure it arrives in your Life and it stays protected. Besides, if you actually pause and examine all the relationships in your Life that require repairing, people who are genuinely interested in you, in them and in positivity, will see your truth. Or they will invite you to see theirs. Those who do none of this, those who want the negativity to fester and breed, really don’t deserve your respect, attention or time. Let them wallow in their ruinous machinations. You just move on!
Wear your Life on your sleeve – and don’t bother about those who will never understand you!
I discovered an interesting statistic reading Priya Ramani’s piece on Barkha Dutt in today’s Mint Lounge. Priya says that Barkha’s book This Unquiet Land: Stories from India’s Fault Lines has 4045 reviews on Amazon – of which only 155 are positive. Priya says the fact that a majority of the reviews are uncharitable is a reflection of the fact that Barkha is hated by most people because she is “powerful, political, fiercely independent and single”. Barkha, for her part, has chosen to be unruffled by those that troll her. “Damned if I’m going to let poison and gutter-level sniping direct my choices and reactions,” she told Priya.
I entirely agree with Barkha here. This is the only way to deal with opinions that are unfair and unsavory – and, important, that are not based on facts.
It is fairly simple. If you share your Life and wear it on your sleeve, you will have people offering their perspectives on it. And not all of that will necessarily be based on the truth or be what you may like to hear. But that’s the way the world is. The only way to avoid such opinions is to not be open – be intensely private and guard your story from public glare. But what’s the point in hiding and not sharing? Just because some people are likely to be nasty to you, you want to deprive yourself and others of what you have to say?
Recently YourStory ran a story on Vaani and me (‘Fall Like A Rose Petal’ – Westland). Some of the comments on the story were not necessarily founded on any understanding of who we are or what we are going through. For instance, one of the readers called me a “conman” for talking of happiness when I owe so many people money. A friend too reported the other day that some people in his circle of influence, who also know Vaani and me, think I am a “fraud”. I have learnt to be non-plussed by such perspective, because, forget everyone else, well, my own family thinks we are faking a bankruptcy and that I am a cheat. Now, what do you do when some people refuse to understand you? You just learn not to pick up their sentiments. If you wait for everyone to see things the way you are looking at them, chances are one lifetime may not be enough to get them around to your point of view. Besides, letting others’ opinions or sentiments govern how you feel is totally, completely, avoidable.
I am not celebrating Barkha here for her media citizenship or for her activist stances. I am celebrating her for the person that she is. In her role, as a celebrity journalist, she wouldn’t be wrong to expect social acceptance and acclaim. But she’s got the maturity to not get depressed when she is not only not getting it from certain quarters, but when she is trolled so horrifically instead! What we must learn from her is to be ourselves – and be unmoved while being that way.
What others think of you and talk about you cannot make you or your Life any different. It simply cannot. Imagining that it can is the biggest disservice you can do to yourself. So, my two penny worth: Go on, wear your Life on your sleeve! And let people say what they have to. You, simply, keep walking…!
You can’t control what someone else does. The day you stop agonizing over other people’s actions, you will experience inner peace.
Sometimes people may choose to consistently, continuously, systematically misunderstand, misinterpret and not relate to you. When these relationships are with people that you are close to or with immediate family, the situation gets confounded and it becomes very difficult to accept the reality. Our biggest grief is not that we are being misunderstood. We feel betrayed because the people misunderstanding us are close to us, those whom we imagined as our own. Relax. You are not alone. It happens to all of us at some time or the other in our lives. It has happened and continues to happen to me too! I can relate to your sense of anguish if you are in or have been in a similar situation.
Simply, there are two contexts for a misunderstanding to arise. One kind is when it is truly a situation of an understanding that has been missed, that has been overlooked for whatever reason – imagination, suspicion, poor communication or whatever. This category of misunderstanding can be addressed and clarified through an honest conversation – a coffee or beer can surely help resolve this issue. But the second kind, when someone doesn’t want to understand you, rarely gets resolved. And if you are grieving, wishing, pining that such people understand you than misunderstand you, then please don’t waste your time anymore. The truth is such people are not true to you. Because true friends, true family, will believe despite evidence to the contrary. It is the flippant lot that will insist on misunderstanding no matter what evidence you place, in your favor, before them! So, why waste your time and emotions on them?
This lifetime is too precious to be squandered on other people’s choices. How someone looks at you or treats you is their problem. You be focused on who you are and how you want to feel. If you want to experience inner peace – and protect it – then stop stressing and sweating over how other people are behaving. What others do, seriously, does not make your Life tick!