A natural tendency we all possess is a desire to equate understanding with acceptance. Nothing could be further from the truth.
You don’t have to trust me on this. You know from personal experience that you’ve understood another person’s logic, but were unpersuaded by their argument.
Why is this distinction important and, more importantly, how can it help us?
Actually, understanding the difference does a number of things for us. It:
- Helps us understand why we can influence some people and not others.
- Avoids the frustration that accompanies rejection of our ideas.
- Makes it easier to understand others’ motives…even when we don’t share their beliefs.
- Opens our eyes to solutions we might not otherwise see.
Understanding ≠ Influence
We’ve all been frustrated by people who seem to understand our position, yet continue to reject it despite its obvious validity.
I recall a situation years ago in which I was a wealth advisor. A prospective client repeatedly agreed with everything I said, but resisted every time I tried to get him to act in his own best interest.
Finally, I said “I’m confused. You agree with everything I’m saying, but are unwilling to do anything I’m suggesting.” To which he responded, “I grew up in the depression when cash was king. Even though what you say makes sense, I can’t bring myself to let go of the cash.”
This example illustrates that there has to be an alignment between understanding and shared values…between logical and emotional acceptance. Absent these alignments, you may get understanding, but you’ll never influence their behavior.
Knowing why you can influence some people and not others can help you avoid frustration. The more quickly you can ascertain whether your values and interests are aligned, the more quickly you can extricate yourself from situations where alignment doesn’t exist.
In my sales calls I use a psychographic profile of my ideal customer. It’s a profile that identifies the values, behaviors and characteristics of the people with whom I’m most successful. Sharing this profile with prospective customers enables us, together, to get a sense for whether we should move forward or part company as friends.
This simple technique of sharing values early in the discussion enables me avoid the frustration I’d experience in trying to persuade someone who can’t be persuaded.
As you become increasingly aware that understanding and acceptance are two dramatically different things, you’ll notice that you’re able to understand others’ motives more readily.
That doesn’t mean that you agree with them or encourage their behavior, it simply means that you can see what it is that’s driving their behavior.
While I abhor the violence that terrorists inflict on others, I understand that they feel that they are victims…that society is against them and there’s no hope for the future except ridding society of the people who perpetuate their victimization.
The fact that there’s no legitimacy to their belief is irrelevant. That’s their perception and as the old adage says “perception is reality.” Here’s what typically has happened in their lives:
- They may have been abused physically, emotionally or both.
- They may have been bullied.
- They not only lacked confidence; they didn’t get any encouragement from others.
- Every “bad” thing that happens to them reaffirms their belief that they are victims…their sense that, in the eyes of others, they don’t matter, are worthless.
- Anything “good” that happens is a fluke…an aberration…something they’re due more often, but don’t receive as often as they should.
- Pain mounts day after day, month after month, year after year until it becomes unbearable.
- In their minds, their only recourse is to strike back.
None of this excuses their behavior, but understanding this enables us to develop ideas on how we can change these peoples’ environment in ways to avoid the progression outlined above.
Solutions - especially for our kids
As we begin to understand others’ motives, we can construct solutions for avoiding the escalation described above. The earlier the better.
It’s imperative that we teach kids to be confident enough to:
- Report abuse and stand up to bullies.
- See the potential we see in them.
- Pursue their interests.
- Realize that they win…regardless of the outcome.
This list is limited only to your imagination.
Look for ways in which you can influence the environment you’re in so that kids can gain the confidence and self-esteem necessary to avoid feeling like victims. Be confident in your own abilities and use that confidence to stand up for these kids when you find situations of abuse or bullying.
Then live a life filled with confidence and opportunity so that kids can see what’s possible…and don’t be afraid to share with them the doubts, fears and anxieties you experienced before you learned how to lead a life of joy…a life free of fear, anxiety and frustration. For it’s essential that they learn that life wasn’t always as grand for you as it is today…that you too had challenges, but that it’s possible for anyone to overcome their challenges and lead a life others’ desire.