Connect2 Marriage Counseling

Being Understood vs. Being Right


Readers, you’ve often heard me asking, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”

Many people get caught up in wanting to be right, or in wanting things to be fair. From what I’ve observed over 18 years of working with clients, those paths do not lead to happiness. They lead to arguments and/or resentments.

I noticed recently that I want to be understood. I’m very fortunate that my husband and I don’t have many disagreements (we use the tools I’m teaching you). But when we’re having a discussion and I find that I’m having trouble dropping my point, it’s because I don’t yet feel understood.

I don’t need a different outcome. I don’t need to be right. I need to ensure that what I’m saying is understood. After that, I can immediately let it go.

As I write those words, I realize that in order to feel understood, I need to be heard. So, it’s actually a two-step process.

This leads me back to sharing with you how important is to let your partner know you heard him/her, and to give empathy. Remember, this doesn’t mean you agree. It means you heard, understood, and gave empathy.

There will be space for you to give your perspective later. If you try offering your perspective before listening and saying back what you heard and offering empathy, the discussion will escalate. The you have to recover from your misunderstanding or argument, and then go back to where you got stuck before.

Clients initially tell me that all of this takes so much time. It does take time. However, if you take the time upfront, you spend way less time recovering from arguments, soothing yourself and one another, and having trepidation as you return to the topic at hand. Plus, you’ve had a discussion that leads to greater emotional intimacy and connection–which we’re all wired for.

Listening means not thinking about your reply (or retort). It means focusing on your partner and listening deeply, with care, curiosity, and kindness.

Try following this formula:

  1. Make eye contact.
  2. Say, “I heard you say _________ , ________ , and _________ . Did I get everything?” (Do not interpolate or synthesize what s/he said, just say what you heard.)
  3. Wait for your partner to reply. If s/he says no, ask what you missed and then say that part back. Ask again if you got everything. If s/he says yes, offer empathy. (Empathy is along the lines of, “That sounds amazing, I’m so happy for you.” Or “That sounds really hard for you. What do you need from me?”)
  4. If you’re not clear on something s/he said be curious and ask him/her to clarify the point. (Don’t use this as place to interject your opinion.)
  5. Let this part of the conversation play out.
  6. Then ask if s/he’s ready to hear your point of view on the topic.
  7. Switch roles of speaker and listener. And follow steps 1-5.

Please let me know how this goes. Here’s to good listening and being understood!