“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood.” — Ralph Nichols
My thought process began from within the confines of staff bathroom stall where inspirational literature is often photocopied and taped haphazardly at toilet-eye-level to the interior of the stall door.
The gist of the particular piece was that with words as our primary vehicle for communication, one would think we’d be better at it. But we’re not. Most over-talk and under-listen. Facing the stall door, I was told again that less is more when it comes to communication.
Fewer words is the way to go.
While I’m certain the Covey-esque message was intended to encourage, “two ears, one mouth” rang loudly in my head—that adorable little saying that has been hurting the feelings of the chatty since…forever.
Needing to be understood and listening to understand are often positioned as opposites. Immature versus mature. Self-centered versus selfless. Discourteous versus well-mannered. It seems we subtly applaud those who process internally as thoughtful, while shaking our heads disdainfully at those more inclined to verbal processing.
Juxtaposed, we can almost feel the tension mounting; two entities facing off against one another. One is active, desperate to ensure the listener really gets them. And the other is passive, silent and resigned; gracious enough to let the other speak, but maybe not courageous enough to honor his or her own voice.
Why, so often, do we pit these two against one another, like they’re dichotomies or extremes or mortal enemies?
Certainly some personality types experience the need to be understood more intensely than others, but all humans feel it, because being understood makes us feel known. The psychological need to be known and understood is a close second to our physical need for food, water, shelter and safety.
As I’ve held these seemingly repelling forces in separate fists, I’ve become aware of their concurrent need to pull together. Though they are different, they are woven together at a visceral level; two sides of the same coin.
We cannot be known and understood without opening our mouths to communicate. And we cannot know and understand others without closing our mouths to listen. As it turns out, it’s both-and.
Continue reading the entire article at Joy of It.