One of the things I like to do is “understand”.
It has often opened up an intellectual path to connecting with others.
One searching for a way to see what the other sees, grasp what the other believes.
It is a pretty limited as an approach. Not that it would be useless, it just needs a specific setting in which it can work. Missing that does make it useless.
It leads to a listening that searches for ways to connect the stories others tell with one’s own line of thought or to stay in a factual more object-oriented understanding of what is being shared.
A threat of an intellectual or rational interpretation of the story can make others anxious to share their ideas. Especially if its subjective elements are important. Sharing a story to then be answered with rationalization is a reminder of how vulnerable sharing can be. It is as if any emotional aspect that was there to be transported with the sharing is subsequently stripped away through the interpretation.
It’s the empathic or generative listening that is missing. A listening based on the relationship established through the exchange. One allowing and inviting mutual adjustment and collective creativity. It lives on the desire to create a mutual understanding from which both can learn instead of one in which one person knows the answer.
Getting to such an exchange requires at least one person’s courage to share and be willing to be wrong. It’s daring to be vulnerable and find oneself not understood.
It works best with an awareness that there is an ambiguity in sharing. A dialogue in which such a fear shows up gives a hint of the stability of the relationship. By naming the boundaries of vulnerability they can be welcomed and cared for.
It’s worth noting them.
Missing them multiple times will reduce the sharing until any sense of safety disappears.