Relationship Advice: Seek to Understand

Here’s a simple piece of relationship advice. Most relationships fail, suffer, or break down because of one key thing: the people involved simply don’t understand each other. In other words, when disagreements occur (which they will in every relationship) both parties try to force their viewpoint on the other person.

A better approach—and one that will significantly improve relationships—is to focus on understanding the other person. In fact, you will find that you can achieve agreement much more quickly by using this approach.

Rather than assuming you know the reasoning behind another person’s viewpoint, ask for an explanation. Ask questions. Engage in discussion. Have a conversation. Try phrases like, “Can you elaborate on that more?” “What makes you say that?” and “That’s interesting. Let’s explore that in more detail. Tell me more about XYZ.” Aim at clarifying rather than influencing.

Why this Relationship Advice Works

When you use this piece of relationship advice, you allow the other person to articulate his or her reasoning. And guess what? You may find that the person’s reasoning is well worth considering. You may receive insight into the other person that will assist you in your discussions and understanding of that person. Or, you may discover that you have more common ground than you thought. You may even change your mind about your own position on the topic.

Tip: Having the other person feel and believe that his/her reasoning is acknowledged—not necessarily agreed with—can have a dramatic influence on changing opinions.