Question: Dear Luise: How can I accurately figure out what is going on with another person? Sometimes their words are misleading and it’s their actions that tell more about where they’re coming from than their words. I want to interact from as much integrity as I can but I find it very hard to get a fix on others much of the time. Does this question make any sense? It’s hard to put into words. Thanks. Glenna
Answer: Dear Glenna: It makes a lot of sense to me that people often don’t make sense to you. You probably don’t make sense to them, either. There are some very solid reasons why this is so.
How much sense do you make of yourself? That’s a good place to begin. I have noticed, for instance, that when I get a question very similar to a former one, I am apt to focus on it differently. I don’t stay the same. None of us do. You can access emotions and feel the opposite emotion at the same time…like “I feel so sad they are leaving.” And at the same time, “Boy, am I happy they’re leaving!” Both can be absolutely true, simultaneously.
We are always a reflection of endless facets of ourselves, and so are others. All we can do is to relate to and try to understand whatever is being presented at the moment from wherever we are.
It’s very natural for us to want to freeze ourselves and others into one value or belief or behavior so we can “know”. It feels scary not to know. Well, guess what…we don’t. We get angry when others are hard to pin down and other people get scared when we are inconsistent. That’s because we all want something we can grab hold of and hang on to…something concrete and predictable. We don’t want to have to adjust to a “fact” that has already become obsolete.
My suggestion is that you let go of trying to figure it out. We were taught to do that by our role models and it simply doesn’t help us in the long run. Why not have the person you are with be how they are, and change your impression when they make a shift? Have them be more than your momentary concept of them and know at the same time that you can’t really know what that is. They are not a concept. Neither are you. We’re all illusive, multifaceted, and evolving entities.
Apply this idea to yourself and give yourself more room for originality and movement. Let all of your impressions rest within you and make room for new ones. Watch all of your beliefs and all of your values rise and fall. Watch your opinions shift. This approach isn’t anything new. It’s simply a broader view than the one we were taught. It’s harder in some ways, but it offers more freedom.