One of my pet peeves (and, oh, I have many, but this is at the top) is when someone asks me a question, I answer, and then they proceed to twist what I said to mean something else entirely. I tell them, for example, that my favorite flavor of ice cream is mint chocolate chip. And before I know it, they’re vilifying me for not giving Chunky Monkey its due adoration. (There are more serious examples of this, too—obviously.)
When this happens, I’m left stammering, arguing, trying to defend myself as my rage builds. And when a conversation escalates to an argument, nobody walks away feeling good. Which is why Nicole LePera, PhD, a holistic psychologist in Philadelphia, recently shared a better, mental-health-specialist-approved game plan.
In a recent Instagram post, Dr. LePera gives an exact script for what to say when a bad listener interprets your words worse than Siri. Just use one of these lines, and exit the convo gracefully.
1. “I’m not looking for you to agree with me.”
2. “We see things differently.”
3. “I can understand your perspective.”
4. “You might be right about that.”
5. “I appreciate you sharing your viewpoint.”
6. “Can we pause this conversation before we feel overwhelmed?”
7. Say nothing at all.
View this post on Instagram
If you want to live an authentic life, you’ll have to practice being misunderstood. This is one of the most difficult things to practice, because we’ve evolved to need each other. Being misunderstood feels like danger to the brain. Our bodies respond. And yet, we need to find a way to be ok with it. A way to allow two different perspectives to exist within a space at the same time. I’ve had an insane amount of practice being misunderstood on social media. I stress that it’s a practice because it’s not until you practice sitting through it over and over again that you begin to be ok with it. Our core needs as human being are: 1. To be seen 2. To be heard So, being misunderstood cuts at our deepest wounds. Our egos can take over. We argue our points. We start to make subjective character statements. We become emotionally flooded by past painful experiences where being misunderstood meant lack of love. Soon, we’re engaged in a full time battle of the past (sometimes with a complete stranger.) As we heal, we gain emotional maturity. Emotional maturity allows us to understand: 1. We can have our own opinions without seeking agreements 2. We can disagree with another person’s opinion without needing them to see or own 3. A person is more than their opinion, in fact that’s an incredibly small part of who they really are 4. Criticism is feedback, not truth 5. Different, varied beliefs are a POSITIVE thing for the collective 6. We can engage with people, and we can also chose at any time to stop engaging 7. Truth is a subjective experience, and another person’s truth doesn’t negate my own What does being misunderstood feel like in your body? #selfhealers
A post shared by Dr. Nicole LePera (@the.holistic.psychologist) on
This type of asymmetrical argument hurts so badly, Dr. LePera says, because we feel undervalued when we are ignored (willfully or not) or when our perspective isn’t given what we see as its true credence. “Our core needs as human being are to be seen [and] to be heard,” she writes on Instagram. “So, being misunderstood cuts at our deepest wounds.”
Which is why we try so hard to circle back and explain ourselves. But doing so when the other person seems to have cotton in their ears can cause us to spin into more of a tizzy. As we gain emotional maturity, Dr. LePera says, we learn that “we can disagree with another person’s opinion without needing them to see or own” and that “we can engage with people, and we can also chose at any time to stop engaging.” So if living your truth means kindly exiting a conversation with a bad listener, that’s your right. You hear me?