Wednesday, November 21, 2007

u is for understanding

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), artist & renaissance human extraordinaire

we are firmly ensconced in the 'holiday season' (that period between halloween and new years) this is a time of year that some folks dread and where others find delightful. I have learned that the secret to 'surviving the holidays,' lies in my ability to master UNDERSTANDING. unfortunately, I feel that the holidays is the one period during the year when folks are particularly prone to misunderstanding!

we talk a great deal about understanding and how important it is to understand. but, what is understanding? I believe that there are three critical components to understanding - communication, compassion and empathy.

humans are great at utterances (e.g. using words, making sounds and vocalizations, drafting memos), but sometimes we are really, really horrible at actually communicating - assumptions are made, psychological walls go up, old baggage comes out, in other words we do not connect - we do not communicate. communication happens when we are truthful, when we allow others to see where our heart is and when we are not afraid.

compassion comes when we seek to alleviate and reduce the suffering of others and when we express kindness towards others.

empathy is our ability to recognize and feel directly the emotion of another, in other words to when we put ourself in someone else's 'shoes.'

when all three of these three things - communication, compassion, and empathy - are in play, are alive and are in balance - understanding comes. find JOY this holiday season - seek understanding.

pictures: top: painting at the amish and mennonite heritage center, berlin OH; bottom: mural on increasing understanding of the importance of the underground railroad, oberlin, ohio

(the letter 'u' was brought to you by: #1: a project I am working on dealing with training physicians in the care of vulnerable populations (the secret is understanding!) #2 hearing about how many people I love and care for get totally wigged during the 'holiday season' - is that you?)


jenclair said...

You are right about communication. Utterances don't equal understanding. Sometimes I listen to someone, and it isn't until much later that I really "get" what they were saying. So how many times do I never "get it"? And trying to explain myself or my thoughts, I've often found that I failed to get my message across.

All three -communication, compassion, and empathy- are things we need to cultivate.

Have a good Thanksgiving, Kim!

Ms. Mamma said...

Great post. Your words are just exuding warmth and care, seriously. I hope you and your fam have a peaceful and safe holiday!

Salty Miss Jill said...

Beautifully stated. Thank you for posting this!


Anonymous said...

Your words help to unwig those of us who have to work at not getting wigged out at this time of year! Merci beaucoup my friend!