Solving Misunderstandings

Misunderstandings seem an inevitable part of human life. Often we see events beyond our control leading to unfortunate misunderstandings. It can be the source of much unhappiness and frustration. But, how do we solve these misunderstandings?

Each human being is doomed to stay
In a prison of misunderstanding.
Alas, when will the day dawn
When misunderstanding will be replaced
By heart-understanding
And soul-fulfilling

– Sri Chinmoy 1

1. Talk

Sometimes it’s good to talk. Don’t have any preconceptions or expectations but just seek to engage and try to simply suggest there may have been an unfortunate misunderstanding. Even, if you feel the other person is in the wrong, don’t start by blaming them. This is the worst thing as it could get worse. Just say, maybe there was something of a misunderstanding and perhaps you weren’t away of this. If you do it without judgement, you allow the other person to easily change their views.

Words can be the cause of misunderstanding, so take a moment to reflect before speaking. Don’t rush into something you later regret.


2. Don’t Feel Sorry for Yourself.

If we feel sorry for ourselves, we prevent the misunderstanding being resolved. This is because part of us is holding onto the victim hood of being a misunderstood. Rather than feeling sorry for yourself, seek the best way to create a more harmonious environment.

3. Give.

It is counter-intuitive to give in response to a misunderstanding. But, it can break the ice and show that you are willing to make the best of the situation. If you give unconditionally, it will bring out the best in other people. It will make them think what they can give in return or maybe you’re not such a bad person after all.

What to give, is something you will need to use your intuition. If you gave some flowers to someone at work, they may just feel embarrassed, to your life partner it may be the perfect thing. You can also give without giving anything materially. You can offer to act as peace-maker, you can give the benefit of the doubt to someone else, you can even just inwardly offer your goodwill; this positive energy will help.

4. Don’t Worry

The problem with misunderstandings is that we can feel bad if others see us as less than perfect. But, no-one is perfect, everyone makes mistakes or is the victim of misunderstanding. However, the mind can easily magnify the significance of what other people might be thinking. What is important is how we respond and act in this present moment, not what people temporarily thought about us in the past.

5. Keep Perspective

Many misunderstandings are much less significant than our mind manages to make them. When we speak to someone else they may not have even given it a second thought, but we thought it was super-important.

6. Don’t Dwell on Misunderstanding

A small misunderstanding can be magnified if we give it much of our attention. If we keep thinking about a situation, the power of thought makes it more real. Sometimes, it’s best to focus on something else and find areas of agreement and understanding. An interesting story. One boss banned emails on Fridays. He found emails where the source of many misunderstanding; on Friday, people had to leave their desks and actually speak to people they had been emailing. This solved many misunderstandings.

7. Don’t Suspect

“Suspect not, if you want your friendship to last long.
Expect not, if you want your friendship to last not only the longest, but forever.”

– Sri Chinmoy 2

One of the most common causes of misunderstandings is wrongly assigning motives to someone else. If our mind is suspicious then we can easily create misunderstanding. If we have misunderstandings examine your thoughts about whether you have wrongly assigned motives.


  1. Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 10, Agni Press, 1981.
  2. Sri Chinmoy, Friendship, Agni Press, 1995.

Tips for Better Communication

Smiling helps any conversation
Smiling helps any conversation

Sometimes silence is a much underrated quality but, everything has its time and place. Good communication is essential for dealing with others.

These are some tips for better communication.

Tips for Speech / Conversation.

Avoid unnecessary words.

We peppar our speech with unnecessary words. “you know some people say….” I mean…”  Sometimes less is more, these extra words can also sound condescending. Speak plainly.

Speak clearly.

There is nothing more frustrating than a conversation which is half heard. Always try to speak clearly. If someone asks you to repeat yourself once, make a special effort, because often people will not ask more than once out of a sense of embarrassment.

Be wary of speaking harshly.

If you are really disappointed with someone, you can express your disappointment / frustration without anger / bitterness. The other person will be much more receptive to your message delivered with sweetness – – or at least the absence of anger and disgust. Sometimes it is more beneficial to take the compassionate approach rather than the justice approach. People may deserve a harsh lesson, but, would it actually help?

Avoiding unnecessary communication.

It is good to communicate well, but, you can have too much of a good thing. Don’t bombard friends with unnecessary text messages. Be confident in your friendship rather than looking for constant reassurance.

Method of Communication

In a digital age, we tend to gravitate towards the most convenient communication. But, the most convenient communication can be the least personal and least effective. An electronic message has much greater scope for misinterpretation and misunderstanding than speaking to someone in person. The next time you say something satirical / sarcastic to a friend try imagine sending that message in an email. You can guarantee without the benefit of facial expression / human contact the message would be misinterpreted.

Difficult Communication.

There are many times when we want to say something, but, put it off because of – nervousness, a desire to avoid difficult situations, or a feeling of guilt for having to tell someone off. But, putting off communication often just makes it worse. What tends to happen is that when we put off speaking to someone our mind just magnifies the problems, turning a small issue into a big problem. Our mind speculates on many adverse reactions which are false. If we find ourself in this situation, the best thing is to speak sooner rather than later.

Suggestions for Difficult Communication

  • Let go of negative expectations – they will probably be wrong anyway.
  • Just speak with kind intentions. If you have the other persons best wishes at heart, then whatever you have to say will be easier to say. Also, if you have good will towards the other person, then you can easily let go of all guilt that may be blocking you from speaking to that person.
  • Remember the positive things that will occur from bringing up difficult situations. The other person may appreciate your intervention at some time – even if not now.
  • Let go of a feeling of pride. Don’t feel the conversation is about having to defend yourself, prove yourself and put the other person down. This kind of attitude is guaranteed to create an awkward situation. Be self-giving and give no importance to silly human pride.

It’s not what you Say, but how you Say it.

Suppose you have to tell someone they have been doing something wrong. There are two approaches. The first is to exaggerate the extent of their mistake and try to make them feel guilty for doing such a silly thing. The other approach is to start off by saying it is the kind of mistake you could have made yourself. Even if you say a white lie and say you once did the same thing, who will be hurt?

If you think about both approaches, you will know exactly how you would want to be treated should someone tell about your misdemeanours.

Give the person your undivided attention.

It may seem obvious, but, often when we are speaking we are subconsciously thinking of something else. I have even skyped someone and during the conversation I heard them typing away in the background. If you are going to speak to someone give that person your wholehearted attention.

Difficulties of Working on Computers

no escape

The growth of the internet has created many opportunities and also many challenges. Through the internet I have been able to work from home writing about things I enjoy. The internet has also enable an effective outlet for writing such as this blog. Yet, although the internet has many advantages it also presents many difficulties, not least it is easy to waste time when on the internet. In a way I am glad to have had a perspective of life before the invention of the internet / email and even computers. Yes, we really did survive without the internet and computers – it’s hard to imagine now, but I think we were even really quite happy 🙂

The Addictive nature of the Internet

There is something about the internet that makes it difficult to switch off. There is always our email / RSS feed / statistics / games to play / News to check. The problem is that the internet can easily become a time filler. We start off with the intention of doing something productive, but quite soon, we have spent many hours of filling in our time and have nothing to show for it – apart from a slightly guilty conscience. To avoid this I try to follow these steps.

  • Have a clear purpose when using the computer
  • Keep a record of what you are actually doing (or not doing as the case may be)
  • Set fixed periods to switch off the computer.
  • Not every 10 minutes break has to be filled by turning on the computer.
  • Take day / weekend off. I often travel at the weekend, I may take a laptop, but, I’m usually grateful for the opportunity to spend a day or two without the computer / internet. When I do turn on the computer on Monday, you realise that it is actually fine not to check your email for a day or two – it certainly isn’t necessary to check every hour or so, which I sometimes end up doing.

Multitasking and getting nothing Done

So often on the computer I am trying to do several things at once. Maybe I have several tabs open, and even 2-3 browsers open. You can flit from one task to another, and you forget what you started. I do my shopping online; recently I created an order but because I was multitasking so much I forgot to send the order – so it was all wasted. If a program is very slow to load, then it is good to open another tab and do more something else. But, there is great power in focus, and this is lost when we try to do several things at once. Part of the problem is that we try chasing super-productivity – trying not to waste even a second. But, this kind of productivity target can be counter productive; we lose focus and don’t do the job as well as we should. It is also stressful to try and do several things at once. Now if a page takes a few seconds to load I try to be patient or think about what I will be doing next. All I know is that when I start multitasking, my brain can’t cope.

The Pseudo Life

The internet encourages instant messaging, discussing on forums e.t.c. There is nothing wrong with these in moderation. But, communicating electronically can never replace the benefit of speaking and meeting people in person. When there is a real connection with people, it is much more powerful than an electronic communication.

Information Overload

The internet has a seemingly infinite quantity of information. One piece of information leads to another. The more information we gain the more we start to seek. Yet, mental information can never give us true satisfaction. We overload our mind with information and opinion, but, it does not give us illumination. The acquisition of information does not change us nor does it change the world. To make effective change we need to be spurred to action, not just read about things that could do with changing. I think one of the keys to happiness is living in the heart and getting away from the judgemental mind. If we spend too much time reading the injustices of the world, we will not be able to change them, and we will not be cultivating happiness.


Photo by Unmesh Swanson, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries

Avoiding Misunderstanding


It seems in life, misunderstanding is easy to occur. Misunderstandings can create unnecessary conflict and unhappiness; often this results from a suspicious mind and unfairly assigning motives.

These are suggestions for preventing and resolving misunderstanding.

1. Don’t Suspect

Misunderstandings often arise because we suspect the worst. We may feel that someone has a negative attitude towards us, when actually they don’t. The mind can be tricky, we can easily build up a negative image of someone, yet, it is an impression which is false or at least only partially true. Often this stems from a lack of self confidence. Because we doubt ourselves we assume that people are liable to be thinking badly about us. Another example is when we take lack of praise as a sign people think negatively of us. Just because someone doesn’t offer praise outwardly, doesn’t mean that they don’t like us.

2. Talk honestly

Most misunderstandings can be resolved by talking with other people. Meeting a person and talking of issues, often shows that our mind’s imaginings were quite false. Be wary of communicating via email; it is a very impersonal form of communication. There is no body language and it is much easier to create misunderstandings. Sometimes we can say something, but, it is our facial expression and eyes that offer the real meaning of what we are trying to convey.

3. Use the heart

The mind will always find conflict, problems and doubts. We need to use the heart and concentrate on things which unite. Here the heart is the aspect which does not judge or criticise but seeks oneness. Outwardly a person may create negative connotations; if this is the case use the heart to silently concentrate on the inner qualities of the other person.

Continue reading “Avoiding Misunderstanding”

10 Tips for Effective Conversation

great ginty I wish conversations skills were taught at school. We spend most of our life talking, and yet many people remain in the dark on this essential life skill. There are many suggestions for developing conversation skills, but, the most important is a sensitivity to the other person. We need to be able to adapt our conversation to whoever we speak with. We need to develop the right balance between talking and bringing out the best in the other person. If we can avoid being egotistical and consider the interests of others they will instinctively enjoy talking with us. If we offer boring conversation, we will only attract boring people to speak with.

Some Tips for Effective Conversation:

1. Avoiding Unnecessary Detail.

Suppose you are a cyclist and a non cyclist asks you about your new bike. What they are wanting is a brief description – like what colour is it? how much does it weigh? how much did it cost? did it come with free sachets of EPO? In all probability they are not interested in your bike at all, but, are asking out of politeness. Therefore, don’t bother them with detail they do not understand and don’t care for. The 674 gram, 20 gear Shimano Dura Ace STI groupset may be fascinating to you; but, it means nothing to the non cyclist. If you go on about the technical detail it will only bore the other person senseless. If you really feel you have to share the latest Shimano groupset mechanism, at least, find another cyclist. When we talk in great detail about our hobby / work / speciality we feel we are very knowledgeable – that is true, we are very knowledgeable, but, it makes for very boring conversation. Don’t show off with technical knowledge, be considerate of the other person.

2. Communication is a 50 – 50 process.

One of the biggest mistakes is to dominate a conversation and not give the other person a chance to speak. Remember the difference between a conversation and a lecture. If you find yourself dominating 70-80% of conversations you should think very carefully about whether you are not just boring other people. A very effective way to improve conversation skills is to ask yourself – Would I want to speak to myself? i.e. how would you feel if you came up against another person who always wants to have the last word and dominate the conversation? Unfortunately, those who love to dominate the conversation often seem the least likely to engage in critical self inquiry. Avoid the monologue, unless you are very witty or very interesting.

“It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much.”

– Yogi Berra

3. Smile

Smiling is a simple but effective strategy to improve any conversation. This helps put the other person at ease; it is a clear signal that you are happy to be speaking with the other person. Smiling also helps ourselves; smiling gives us self confidence and helps put us in the right frame of mind. I would say it is better to force a smile than remain glum and miserable.

4. Avoid Strong Political / Religious views

To impose strong political / religious views is one of the biggest conversation killers. If it is not necessary to state political views and religious views then avoid doing it. Also be sensitive to the opinions of other people, if you know someone has strong opinions on controversial topics avoid challenging them and bringing a divisive element to the conversation; look for topics of shared interest. You are not going to change their long cherished belief’s so at best it will be a futile gesture; at worst they will be upset and avoid future conversations.

5. Criticise by asking questions

Take a tip from great thinkers like Benjamin Franklin and Socrates. Don’t criticise directly. Merely ask questions, which sow seeds of doubt in the mind of the other person. This is a much more effective than directly criticising. With this method you can criticise without causing any offence.

Continue reading “10 Tips for Effective Conversation”

How to be friends despite having a different political or religious viewpoint

WHR Singapore

Everywhere we look we see issues dividing the inhabitants of this tiny planet – red states and blue states, religious people versus atheists, left versus right – not to mention the many emotive social issues that often puts people at daggers drawn against one another.

The unfortunate thing that the acrimony of these debates often prevent us from seeing those ‘on the other side’ as real people – people with hopes, dreams, feelings and problems just like us – and instead we choose as our social circle people with the same ideas and views. In this climate, it seems a miracle that there are still people who can stay friends despite having wildly different viewpoints – but there are, and the world is a better place for it. So, here are a few thoughts on keeping alive that flame of mutual respect and appreciation and not letting differences of opinion consume your friendship.

Resist the temptation to stereotype

Too often we are prone to characterize opposing political or religious viewpoints in a couple of contemptuous lines. In addition to its dehumanising effect, this summary often tends to be a distillation of all that we see ‘bad’ in the other position and can make people who hold that position seem much more extreme, so the two opposing positions seem impossible to bridge.

I was reminded of this when I watched a video of an extremely entertaining and illumining play, called Jefferson and Adams, describing the legendary relationship between the second and third Presidents of the United States. Originally close friends who worked together to draft the Declaration of Independence, they soon found their relationship increasingly strained due to their political positions – Adams was on the Federalist side which favoured closer ties with Great Britain and more centralized control, whereas the Republicans were led by Jefferson and favoured minimalist government. The relationship between the two very quickly deteriorated, the low point being the extremely acrimonious Presidential election of 1800 where the two sides characterized each other in most unfavourable (and often untrue) terms – it was so bad that afterwards Adams could not bring himself to attend Jefferson’s inauguration.

However, later on in life Jefferson and Adams reconciled and wrote long and touching letters to each other, which the play uses to create a dialogue between the two – one very moving scene is where they realise the stereotype they created of each other’s positions. “Did you really think I wanted to have an American King?” Adams asks; “Did you really think I wanted to have lawless mobs on the streets?” replies Jefferson, both with great sadness in their voices, as they recalled how this scaremongering on both sides misrepresented what they actually felt.

You can resist this temptation to stereotype by taking a couple of minutes to stand in your friend’s shoes. With your heart, really try to empathise with him or her, and why she feels the way she does. With the heart, you can also feel the qualities that made you friends in the first place, qualities that go far beyond any simple stereotype and transcend their stance on any particular issue. Continue reading “How to be friends despite having a different political or religious viewpoint”

The Art of Listening


There is more to listening than meets the eye, or rather, the ear. Listening is not merely hearing what the other person says, but also comprises understanding what that person says on a deeper level and reacting adequately to it. Many communication failures, hurt feelings and misunderstandings result from the inability to listen properly. Our relationships and dealings with other people will become much more fruitful and fulfilling if we study and learn the art of listening. For listening is an art unto itself. There are several things to bear in mind in order to become a good listener.

1. Never interrupt.

It is considered rude and ill-mannered to butt in while the other person is still speaking. Let him finish what he has to say and then make your remark. Your patience and good manners will be appreciated.

2. Really listen to what is said, rather than just hearing it.

There is a great difference between hearing and listening. In hearing the information goes in one ear and often comes out the other. In listening we allow the words to sink in deeper. In our mind’s eye we try to picture what the other person is telling us. Listening therefore demands concentration and undivided attention. Listening takes some effort, whereas hearing does not.

3. Do not judge.

Try to keep an open mind towards what is being said and keep personal judgements to yourself. Acceptance and tolerance of others’ opinions are not only laudable virtues, but also help the other person feel comfortable and relaxed and give him the chance to speak his mind freely, without being afraid of what you will think of him.

Continue reading “The Art of Listening”