Hemingway once said that, “The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one’s own.”
We talk about sympathy and empathy, however, are we really capable enough to understand another human being? Are we capable enough to understand another’s emotions and feelings? Human emotions are more complicated than anything that has ever existed. Psychologists have spent decades trying to understand the complications of the human brain and why we feel what we feel and act the way we do.
You can never really understand a person until you see things from their point of view. We presume that it is our moral duty to understand people to make them feel better but honestly, only the person himself knows what they’re truly feeling. We do not, we cannot understand what another person is feeling. We pretend to share opinions and ideas but that is the limit. We try but we do not understand the joy, the pain, the misery, the love or the fear of another human being. Behavioural tendencies of people vary in every aspect of life and to understand them is impossible. To understand our own selves is a big task in itself. The uncomfortable truth is that we do not understand each other any more than we understand ourselves. We’re all lost in this world trying to figure out who we are and what we want. We’re confused by the big world around us and various different people having a million different opinions. The world is a confusing place with just as many confused people trying to find their purpose and their place without getting lost.
Humans are complicated. We say something but we mean something else. Most of us don’t come across the way we intend to. We can’t see ourselves truly objectively, and neither can anyone else. Human beings have a strong tendency to distort other people’s feedback to fit their own views. We know this intellectually, yet we rarely seem to recognise it as happening. The way we see one another is far from fair. We look at people as we want to see them, we make them into what we want them to be. However, some of us are actually easier to understand than others. These people seem to express themselves in ways that allow others to perceive them more accurately. Psychologists refer to this as being more or less “judgeable,” or as personality expert David Funder calls it, being a “good target.” What actually makes someone more judgeable? Funder has argued that in order for people to be accurate in their assessments of someone else, four things need to happen. The target must (1) make information available and (2) make sure that information is relevant. Then, the perceiver must (3) detect, or pay attention to that information and (4) use it correctly.
Sometimes, we think we really know a person but we do not. We believe we know them but there is a deep dark side to everyone which we may have no idea about. You might think that spouses know everything about each other as they have lived together and apparently do everything together but no, even in marriage there are certain things you do not know about a person no matter how long you’ve known the person or how intimate you are. The problem is how little attention we pay to other people and how much we rely on assumptions. In our everyday lives, it is not possible to give a person your undivided attention and completely focus on every minute detail of each and every conversation.
We’re all so desperate to be understood that we forget to be understanding.
We forget that people around us are going through things, just as we are. We forget that people require support, just like we do. No, humans might not understand each other but what matters is that we try. We try to be understanding and sometimes, that is enough to make a difference.