How to avoid misunderstandings?


It was a scorching summer day causing the men in the prison yard to seek refuge in the shade of a building.

As they lounged in droopy-eyed discomfort another prisoner passed and, as he did, cursed the miserable heat.

Two of the men a little distance away heard only the last part of what was said, and thought the obscene remarks were intended for them.

Silently they crept up behind the prisoner, who shuffled on, unaware that he had offended anyone.

Without saying a word, they smashed him to the ground with vicious blows, and might have fatally injured him had not another prisoner intervened.

Truly it can be said, misunderstanding is an incubator of strife.

How much conflict and bitterness among individuals it has caused!

So, what can be done to avoid misunderstandings?

Preventing misunderstandings

So often, persons misinterpret the words or actions of others; and while they may not respond so violently as those two convicts, hard feelings and strained relations result.

People grow cold toward their neighbors, avoid them, and sometimes are even moved by bitterness to gossip about them and misrepresent them.

The problem often is that people have different ways and customs. As a result, what is said or done is misunderstood.

For example, in certain Spanish-speaking countries a lady may say to her friend, “QuĂ© gorda esta!”, that is, “How fat you are!”

Now, a person unfamiliar with the local way of expression could misunderstand and take offense. Cool feelings could develop.

However, when one understands that what is actually meant is,

“How pretty, how healthy you are !”
the effect is altogether different.

It is surprising that so much trouble results from misunderstandings as simple as this.

A person says something without meaning any offense, but another mistakes the meaning and is aroused to anger, or is so hurt that he loses a night’s sleep.

How can such unfortunate misunderstandings be avoided?

Empathy, or fellow feeling, is needed.

You must endeavor to cultivate an understanding of other humans and their ways of behavior.

Rather than permitting yourself to think negatively, try to appreciate why the person said a thing.

Could it be just his way, a characteristic of his nationality or background?

Was he only teasing?

Even though what was said may have been in poor taste, it may only have been a slip of the tongue.

Have you not also said things that conveyed an unintended meaning?

You would feel bad if what you said was misunderstood and caused hard feelings is that not true?

So be kind.

Do not let what others say result in a misunderstanding. How much better it is to forgive and forget!

However, if there is genuine reason to believe that you have been unjustly criticized or wronged, then what?

First, honestly consider the matter: Is there some truth in what was said?

Is it possible that you have been guilty of some folly, some indiscretion?

Remember, we all make mistakes.

Perhaps what someone is doing is simply bringing to your attention one of these concealed faults of which you are unaware.

So be humble and accept the correction.

Of course, if after thorough self-examination you still believe that you have been seriously wronged or that your reputation is endangered, you may want to do something.

But keep in mind that there may be several apparently contradictory viewpoints that can all be true.

So keep calm and open-minded as you seek redress through relevant authorities.