Written by: Dennis M. Flores, Teacher III – Tanato Elementary School
Before reading this content, each of us may first answer these questions: Have you been subjected to grave misunderstanding and conflicts with your peers at your workplace? Is it you or someone’s fault or narrowheadness? How did you deal with those people who may be toxic at you, resulting to misunderstandings and unnecessary quarrels or argumentations?
Well, if you answered these questions and you find it very depressing and somewhat affecting your personal and professional state as an educator, it is a no surprise for everyone. In a professional sense, misunderstandings in an educational institution are not much peculiar and often insipid, yet they can create conflict. There are times that someone misheard something you said, and now they are disagreeing or being unpleasant with you. Perhaps they heard your words correctly but interpret them in a manner that did not align with your intent – telling to themselves that you are bossy or being cocky around. Most of the time, they interpreted your silence in a way that was inconsistent with the message you wanted to send, or at worst – that you are defeated by their argument and personal takes against you.
Regardless of the causes and if there is weight to endure it, misunderstandings can damage relationships if they are not met accordingly. I would like to share a few strategies and considerations that you may bear in mind to face these misunderstandings in a manner that preserves the working relationships that you cared for while performing your work as a professional and as an individual.
But before I begin discussing strategies you can use to overcome misunderstandings, I urge you, above all, to be magnanimous and open minded in taking them, because it should be taken in a reciprocal way. It is easy to tear a text apart — it is more difficult to reflect and be mindful from it. Why? Because it is easy to elucidate someone’s dissension with you as a personal attack or someone’s tone as argumentative. Doing so lacks generosity and does little to build on the relationship. Now, let’s get straight into it.
At the Brink of Misunderstanding
First, you should check first if you are actually being misunderstood or if the other person’s interpretation of the situation is justified. Often we put first our perspectives and postulate objectivity when, in fact, what we said can indeed be interpreted in many views.
Thus, you should first check out the situation. What is just exactly you said? On what manner did you say it? Does the fact that you said it, as against to someone else who isn’t like you, make a distinction? If so, what distinction does it suggests? Is there a power or authority imbalance between you and the other person? If so, who has more of it? If you do, then why is that important to the given scenario?
When you already look back and answered the questions on your own, and you realized that the other person misunderstood you, your actions and motive in speaking to him/her is to aim for clarity, not to argument whether of you is correct.
Note that it may not be a good idea to begin with, “What I meant was [another attempt at what you meant].” If your words were ineffectual the first time around, combining them without the response from the other person you had communicated with may not actually make a value.
Instead, begin by asking for response: “How do you understand or accept what I just said?” Or: “I don’t think I explained myself clearly — what did you understood from me?” These instances may help you to shift to clarification of a misunderstanding. Either of those statement may enable you to start a conversation with sincerity rather than imposing the will to “win” the conversation by reiterating your words and actions were right and their ears or how they perceive your words and actions were wrong.
Rather than excusing yourself in a futile attempt to protect imperfect work or speech, you should listen and accept feedback from others to improve your clarity moving forward when misunderstandings strikes again. Learning to listen and accept things with the help of the person who misunderstood you will also promote better understanding and relationship with them.
Taking that Consequences of a Mistake and Having a Truce
Well, as we take it – humans are not perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Being an imperfect person is each one us is likely to commit instances of expressing yourself which can be actually be interpreted (correctly) as modest, as imperceptive or as an (unintended) attack. If you are guilty being one with it, learn to accept and ask for forgiveness and understanding. We must accept the fact that through these experiences, we can gain knowledge on how to consider and accept the correctness of a viewpoint that isn’t yours, reflect from it and do necessary things to make things right. Well, doing this will not make you as a weak person or your ego or your pride is hurt- it will simply makes you a room for self-reflection and redirection.
We are also guilty sometimes of being defensive when it comes to our words, actions and arguments because it is in human nature that we won’t let go of our desire to be right. But remember, this characteristic of ours consciously or unconsciously will result to misunderstandings and conflicts that will severe relationships. Whether you think it is or not your fault, it is better for us simply ask for clarification – maybe just like this “I’m not sure I understand where you’re coming from — can you help me to better understand our situation?” That can pave a way to maintain your relationship and resolving a misunderstanding cooperatively before it comes to much worst scenario.
When Worse Comes to Worst
Although we are hoping that each of our well-kept relationships were in a better shape, some misunderstandings and conflicts are unresolvable, and that is not a surprise. As we looked back to our reminder at the beginning, mutual generosity between two or more people who had misunderstandings and conflicts will journey in a long way or another. If one of the party is generous and the other is stingy, there is a less chance of reconciliation to happen. Being uncooperative and forcing each other hastily in such situations may worsen the situation. In such situations, it’s logically acceptable to be respectful at the mood, decision or mindset of the other person then withdraw from the conversation and hope for a better opportunity and instance to talk about it later.