669: Managing Misunderstandings (With Yourself & Others)

Oct 17, 2019

A misunderstanding has the power to ruin your day. They’re one of the primary drivers of stress, drama and unhappiness (not just at home, but in all walks of life). In theory, overcoming all this is easy, as it involves YOU listening to the other person…

In reality this is hard, and requires a lot of practice and intentionality!

In today’s episode I discuss how to do this, sharing four techniques you can use to minimize the misunderstandings you have with other people (and yourself). If you find yourself wondering how an argument snowballed and began in the first place… this episode is for you.

I’ve written an article that accompanies this, so please read, listen (or both) to ensure you don’t have to suffer with the negative drain misunderstandings have (and on those you care about the most).


  1. How to get your own questions answered in a future episode of the Primal Potential podcast
  2. The dangers of misunderstandings, and the impact they have not just between you and other people, but you and your own internal struggles
  3. About a recent misunderstanding I had with a contractor, and how it inspired this episode
  4. The 4 approaches to minimize misunderstandings, and how to turn the situation from a negative into a positive (full of lessons and growth)
  5. How minimizing misunderstandings doesn’t only create less stress, but improves the quality of your relationships (and life as a whole)
  6. How to manage internal misunderstandings, and the four aspects that often cloud your judgment (that can lead you to miss out on transformational opportunities)
  7. The questions you need to ask yourself in the moment to halt these four destructive patterns
  8. How to train yourself to do all this, and how you don’t have to wait for your next disagreement to put these steps into practice.


He tilted his head to one side and sighed… “all I ever hear from you is that this project is never going fast enough,” he said.

My first reaction to this? Woah!

I stood there, frustrated. I could feel it as my fingers bunched together tighter in my palms.

  • I have never said that, I thought.
  • Who does this guy think he is?
  • He’s wrong, and I can’t let him think he’s right about this…


I’ll be honest, had this conversation took place a few years ago, those thoughts wouldn’t have remained inside my head. But I’ve learned a lot about myself in recent years, and one of the most important is how to better manage misunderstandings.

Which this clearly was.

How This Misunderstanding Began in The First Place…

To give you some context, this conversation took place between me, my contractor and foreman. As you may know, we’re having our home renovated. A lot goes into this, and there are a lot of moving pieces.

My role is to project manage these, and I recently noticed some changes I hadn’t signed off.

Changes the engineer hadn’t approved, nor the town…

So, I sent a text asking my contractor the reasons why, and also asking to be informed before any future changes are made. As I sent this text, I felt totally within my right and didn’t imagine anything further.

“I think we need to meet in person,” he replied.

The next morning we did, which is when the conversation above took place.

The 4 Techniques to Minimize Misunderstanding

I hadn’t said anything about the project being behind, or that I was unhappy.

However, I clearly must have inferred this at some point for my contractor to feel this way.

I thought one thing…
He had thought another…

And both are valid. What we deem true is often subjective, as we only know what goes on in our own head. We get half of the story, which is where misunderstandings begin.

You don’t need me to tell you how destructive these can be.

I imagine you’ve had arguments with your partner (or someone at work), only to step back later and wonder: how did everything spiral out of control like that?

The reason is nobody took control of the situation and tried to gain understanding from the misunderstanding. Without this, misunderstandings lead to truly negative situations. Yet with this, a misunderstanding is a wonderful opportunity to gain greater insight.

Which I’m happy to say happened this time, between my contractor and I.

This is why…

1: Make it a Priority to Understand Where The Other Person is Coming From

You know how you feel. You know what you meant when you said that thing or sent that email…

However, you have no idea what the other person feels.

Make it a priority to figure this out. Take focus away from you, and place it on to them. Ideally, both parties do this, but so long as one does, a misunderstanding is quickly understood.

You can’t rely on the other person doing it, so take control of the moment and listen to them.

After I took a few breaths, I asked my contractor questions.

  • What did I do or say that made you feel this way?
  • Is there a situation that took place that made you feel I was unhappy?

I quickly learned that he inferred certain things into what I said and actions I took. Did I feel this way, and did I mean for it to come across like that? No. It doesn’t matter. He felt this way. It was true for him.

Learn what’s true for the other person, and you’ll quickly diffuse the situation.

2: Choose a Perspective of Getting it Right Instead of Being Right

In situations like these you often make it worse by focussing on being right, rather than finding the right solution.

Old me would have focussed on this. I’d have hit back straight away in a bid to prove myself right (and therefore, prove him wrong). There’s an important question to ask here, though…

Why? Why is being right important to me?

It isn’t. A boost to your ego, sure… but being right is a lonely place. It doesn’t deliver a solution, and it doesn’t help you (nor the other person) grow. Often, it leads to resentment and further misunderstanding.

So instead of being right, focus all your attention into getting it right.

Once I listened to my contractor, I drew a line in the sand so we could focus on the right solution moving forward. Not only did it alleviate any conflict, but it helped us save a lot of time and money.

3: Own Where YOU Could Have Done Things Differently

The misunderstanding doesn’t end when you walk away from the conversation.

Unless you learn, you’ll likely end up back in the same place further down the line.

Oftentimes this is because you continue to focus on what the other person did wrong.

You’re mad at them.
You’re frustrated.
You want them to own their part of it.

You DO NOT get to control any of this.

You do, on the other hand, get to control you.

  • What could you have done differently?
  • What can you do better in the future?
  • How could you have minimized the misunderstanding in the first place?

I walked away from my contractor wondering how I could better manage this project. I realized I could communicate better and be more clear when I do. It’s not only minimized that particular misunderstanding, but it’s made our working relationship much better since.

4:  Practice Becoming an Expert in Your Ability to Differentiate Between What Actually Happened and How You Feel About What Happened

You don’t have to wait for your next misunderstanding to practice this one.

  • The next time you read an email and read something into it, stop yourself…
  • The next time your partner comes home and seems a little off, stop yourself…
  • The next time you make an assumption toward someone or something, stop yourself…

What do you know? What is factual, and what is a story you made up in your head?
Do you know what the other person means or feels, or are you simply reading into it?

Facts and feelings are different.

Yet we often allow our feelings to rule what we do and how we think. We give everything meaning, and build stories around each piece of life. A lot of the time, these stories are not true.

They breed misunderstanding, and you can actively choose to stop this each and every day.

How To Manage Internal Misunderstandings

These four techniques help you minimize and manage misunderstandings with other people, but often the most damaging misunderstandings are the ones that happen within.

  • The beliefs we form…
  • The stories we create…
  • The excuses we make…

Learning how to manage your internal misunderstandings not only minimizes the ones you have with other people, but it sets you free and releases so much overwhelm and uncertainty.

I talk about how to manage your internal misunderstandings in the podcast episode that accompanies this article. If you’ve taken value from what you’ve read, I encourage you to listen to it in full.

Not only does it provide greater context into the misunderstanding with my contractor, but dives deep into those internal misunderstandings we have with ourselves (the most damaging of all).

It’s these internal misunderstandings that hold us back the most, but the actual impact they have may surprise you. Listen to the latest episode of the Primal Potential podcast in full to find out how…


Thanks for reading. I encourage you to listen to the episode of the Primal Potential podcast that accompanies this in full, as it walks you through how to manage your internal misunderstandings.

I cannot overestimate how powerful learning this is. Once I did, it changed how I not only communicate with others, but how I figure out the right decisions to make each and every day.

It’s fascinating how it works, and I’m excited to explore it with you in today’s latest episode ⇒

Thanks again for listening and reading. If you have any questions about misunderstandings (either with other people, or those you have with yourself), add them in the comments below.

And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast and connect with me on social media.




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