Be not disturbed at being misunderstood; be disturbed rather at not being understanding.Chinese Proverb
When I go down memory lane, I often recall instances where I was not good at reading the room, and/or understanding specific situations that were presented to me. Be it immaturity, or ignorance, some of those moments I consider great candidates for a repeat. Sadly, ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, I am left sitting with my head resting sideway on my open palm and saying to myself; “If only life allowed for a ‘do-over’!” Can you relate to that?
While I was on one of my visits to Korea, my team of colleagues and I took a train to go sight seeing around Seoul. The train was full, with a few seats designated for people with disabilities or senior citizens. My team immediately sat me in one of those seats because I am officially disabled because of my heart condition. But suddenly two senior ladies came in, and pushed me out of the seat, cursing at me in their language, what I could only gather to be a reprimand for taking a seat for disable people when I am young and in good condition.
We were all shocked at first, and then our interpreter explained that they thought I was another entitled foreigner who was disregarding their transit rules. My students wanted me to go show them my scar, but first of all, I was not about to undress to make a point, and second, I honestly don’t feel like I have to cater to people’s perceptions -I rather keep the peace. So, I stood the rest of the way and let it go. Do you think this was a dumb response in my part? Honestly, I’m not sure, but that’s how I responded to the misconception of the elderly passengers.
Being misunderstood is part of life and we cannot help the fact that some people will believe what they want to believe about us. However, being understanding with others is something we should strive for. I try to be as honest as I can be in my blog, and so, I will tell you that I have not always been good at understanding people’s intensions, or comments. I have been both at the giving end and at the receiving end of things. In fact, I had a minister friend who used to say that perception was everything, and although I never agreed with that statement, I do recognize that to some people perception is law.
Today, I want to encourage you to take time to read the room; to ask the right and non-invasive questions, and to find a way to become more compassionate towards everyone you meet. Compassion helps us navigate the rough waters of misunderstandings.