For me, there is nothing more rewarding, erotic, beautiful, intimate or validating than feeling understood. If I feel heard and accepted, my whole body and spirit warm to life. Love flows from me. I am energized, inspired and at peace. Understanding gives me courage and energy to be my highest self — someone who sees the potential and good in everyone and desires to give back.
Introverts and intuitive people really appreciate understanding.
As an introvert, feeling known and accepted means less energy leakage when expressing myself. More ease and comfort around who I am. I won’t have to explain my need for solitude or my sensitivity to stimulation. It’s all OK. I can let my guard down and love freely. I can breathe and glow quietly.
As an intuitive, feeling heard and understood is akin to nirvana. There is nothing so glorious as participating in a conversation where participants effortlessly ignite and inspire each other. People bashing, limiting criticism and small talk are nowhere to be found. Open-minded discussion wraps its arms around us and makes us feel safe.
Part of the appeal of the Myers Briggs Personality Inventory, is its philosophy of learning about different types of personalities and appreciating each of them for what they offer. It’s not divisive even though it separates people into 16 different types. It’s communal and encourages understanding. No type is better or worse.
The Right/Wrong and Better/Worst dichotomies we love to employ, leave one side feeling misunderstood or maligned. Understanding leaves the door open for overlap, grey area and acceptance.
How do we get past the knee-jerk reaction of, I’m right and you’re wrong, and move to understanding?
“Empathy underlies virtually everything that makes society work—like trust, altruism, collaboration, love, charity.” — Dr. Bruce D. Perry,
The essence of empathy is to stand in another’s shoes and feel what it’s like there. Unlike sympathy, with empathy you feel sorry with someone versus for someone.
I craved empathy last week after the unexpected death of an old friend. I had just heard the news and was sad. I told my son and a friend. I got an, I’m sorry and a, That’s life from each of them respectively. What I really wanted was a hug or further interest in the story. Even better, would have been validation of my emotions and an acknowledgement that they had felt the same way at one time. Empathy would have made me feel understood and heard.
2. Active listening
Active listening is the art of being present while others talk. Instead of thinking of what we are going to say in response to their words we listen and reflect what we heard. The key is not to launch into how their words affected you but you can empathize with them by saying, I would feel the same way if that happened to me.
Active listening shows you are interested in hearing the other person’s perspective and not just waiting to share your own. You truly want to understand their world.
I, admittedly, struggle with this. I am striving to improve this skill. I have a tendency to want to fix or show understanding by relaying a similar situation I experienced. It’s sort of empathy but I can do better in my listening. I also have to be careful not to project too many of my feelings onto others. They are not always the same.
Validation goes beyond acknowledging someone’s experience. It says your experience is real and it matters. Not only do I see your perspective, but I appreciate it.
I was recently validated by my writing coach, Lauren Sapala. I’ve mentioned Lauren several times. She is wise and affirming. I highly recommend her services.
I told Lauren about an invoice (not from her) I received for my business. The invoice bothered me because I didn’t believe it was fair. I felt I was being charged for work I already paid for. I hate confrontation but knew I needed to take care of this. I felt pressure from one friend who said I needed to be more aggressive and call the service company to tell them I wasn’t going to pay the bill. I always want to preserve a relationship if possible. That’s just my way.
Lauren validated my feelings by telling me it makes her upset to have to deal with things like this too. She said my stress level is the most important thing to consider and that sending an email to the company outlining the discrepancy is just fine. A confrontational phone call wasn’t necessary. I felt such relief. So validated and understood. I took care of the invoice via email that afternoon and worked out a satisfying compromise with the service company.
Where can introverts and intuitive people find understanding?
Sometimes we don’t experience that life-giving understanding in our immediate relationships and have to find it elsewhere.
In the real world, I’ve found great solace and understanding with my writing friends. Our group meets once a month and saves my sanity. The group is full of introverts and intuitive types. Most of all it is full of people willing to listen and respond without judgment. I suggest finding your writing group or equivalent tribe by noticing where and with whom you feel most at home. I felt completely relaxed in writing classes. My writing group is an extension of those.
In the virtual world, I hope you find my website a safe space to visit, read and feel known. All of the resources listed under the Resources tab are wonderful sources of understanding. I also recommend the group, Intuitive Awakening, on Facebook as a haven for your esoteric mind.
I’ve had many mentors/gurus/coaches/enlightened friends provide affirmation and understanding along my path of personal evolution. I am so grateful for their insight and care. I love providing empathy, validation and deep listening to clients in my own coaching.