In this episode I’m deep diving into the difference between agreement and understanding. Failing to grasp the difference between these two things can stop a conversation or relationship in its tracks. Seeking to understand someone or to be understood is world’s different than wanting agreement. How is muddying the two impacting your relationships?
What you’ll hear in today’s episode:
- How agreement and understanding are different
- The reasons why confusing the two creates breakdowns
- Simple methods for creating understanding and moving stuck conversations forward
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— Rough transcript —
So nod your head if you’ve been in a situation like this:
You’re sitting across from someone who holds a point of view that’s completely opposite of yours. They believe XYZ is right and true, while you believe 123 is right and true. You go back and forth stating why you’re right, why they’re wrong, and trying your damn best to get them to understand, because once they understand you’re convinced that they will agree with you!
Alright, so AGREEMENT and UNDERSTANDING.
This might sound like a simple topic, and it is, yet the implications of getting this wrong are huge.
Confusing agreement and understanding can lead to serious breakdowns in relationships. It’s often the breaking point in communication and it’s worth exploring.
I’ve talked extensively on this podcast about a family situation I’m experiencing right now, and I’m going to do it again because it’s ripe with amazing examples of alignments and misalignments that I am learning from and you can learn from through me.
This is what was happening with my sister.
She wanted to do X with my dad and I felt more inspired by Y. We went back and forth for months, getting nowhere, and building up more frustration. Hope for a resolution was being lost because we were seeking Agreement.
Then I shifted tactics.
Feedback from Kemi: “Shut the hell up and just listen!”
Took my blows on the next call. Didn’t agree with what they were saying — feelings are not facts — but understanding was my goal, not agreement. So I worked on understanding them.
ME: “Okay so what I’m hearing is that you were feeling like I was punishing you by not intentionally making you a part of Maya’s life? I was withholding her from you, didn’t introduce her to you over Christmas when you had the first chance to meet her, and you feel like I’m doing that to punish you (whether consciously or subconsciously)?
DANA: “Yes, that’s what I’m saying”.
How can I argue with her perception? That’s how she feels. That’s how she saw it. I didn’t think I was doing that on purpose, but that was her experience and therefore her reality.
I did not have to agree with her in order to understand her.
Once I sought to understand her (and released the need for agreement), we were able to move forward because she felt heard and understood.
Literally released all the tension in the conversation and diffused the whole convo when she said “Yes, I feel understood”. There was nothing else to argue on. We could move forward.
This is huge because so often the goal of a conversation is AGREEMENT.
You can understand where someone is coming from without agreeing with their position.
We also believe that the ability to move forward and carry on depends on agreements, but that’s often not the case at all.
It’s critically important to understand the difference between these two because not understanding the difference will get you stuck.
It is applicable for romantic relationships or business relationships, friendships, parenting — everything.
EXAMPLE: not agreeing on parenting styles. Sarah and I on opposite sides of Maya’s sleep. Sarah wanted strict sleep schedule. I was more lenient. Around the holidays this came to a head when I wasn’t respecting her desire for Maya to nap while at my mom’s house. Understanding the environments we grew up in and the ways we were raised allowed us both to understand one another without having to agree. She’s a little less strict, and I’m more scheduled.
So be mindful of when you’re seeking agreement and confusing it with understanding. Become more aware of when there’s a breakdown of understanding that’s impeding your ability to move forward.
Practice seeking to understand someone, and release the need for agreement. If there’s an active conflict in your life right now between you and another person, this is the place to practice. Especially if egos are flaring up. The more anxiety and discomfort you feel towards this person and conflict, the more crucial it is that you practice this with them.
I also talk about understanding in the episode “How to help your loved ones feel understood”, which a number of you have emailed me about. So check that one out as well. It’s on iTunes, Stitcher, and on FireSideNetwork.com
Today’s gratitude goes to:
- DJ Quads and maxzwell for the music used in today’s episode (links to the tracks are in the show notes)
- Christie for the review on iTunes and Valerie for the email — I truly appreciate the love in both forms! If you want to leave a review, iTunes is the best way to do it……if you want to shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Grateful to any listener who checked out the show for the first time. thats a risk and i truly hope you feel it paid off. time is one of those things we don’t get back so you spending it with me is truly humbling. thank you.
And with that, my name is Matthew Bivens HERE’S TO YOU HAVING IT ALL!