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How To Resolve a Simple Misunderstanding

Updated on March 16, 2015
NOW what do you do when you believe you're right? Argue? Let it go? Winning an argument could mean losing  a friend.
NOW what do you do when you believe you're right? Argue? Let it go? Winning an argument could mean losing a friend.

The Three Levels of a Misunderstanding

Something is said or is written and gets taken by someone else COMPLETELY the wrong way.
The "offending" person even apologizes for making them upset even though it was BY ACCIDENT.
That's considerate.

The person that had it all wrong "rags" to another person about what is said before they know it was all just a misunderstanding. Maybe they find out they had it all wrong but continue to stay mad at the misunderstood party anyway.
That's childish.

Some people can never admit they were ever wrong in their thinking even over a simple misunderstanding.
That's immature.

Let me show you how a situation I encountered can apply to nearly all aspects involving a misunderstanding. I will show you how I reacted to it, how I tried to resolve it and how you can apply these same measures to misunderstandings you may have had in the past or have going on now. After researching how other people have dealt with their situation, hopefully my story can be a guide to resolving your's too.

Some misunderstandings may not be as easy as this example but hopefully this article might give you some insight on how NOT to deal with it or how to get someone too stubborn to bend and to compromise because resolved misunderstandings begin with someone willing to see the other's point of perspective in the situation first.

What seems fine to one person could be completely misconstrued by another
What seems fine to one person could be completely misconstrued by another

The Scenario

Here's the story, at least from my side:
I had said something to a fellow who is a (some what) popular local entertainer. Something during our initial meeting that was taken completely out of context and in the wrong spirit by him. I actually thought this person's likeness was on a large photograph poster on a wall. But as it turns out, it wasn't him after all. It really did look, at the very least, quite similar to him in physique.

Alright, my mistake, and that's where it should have ended. I was actually complimenting him thinking the venue had posted a picture promoting him with other stand-up comedian's posters that lined the inside walls.of the place of who had performed there.

But for some reason he took it the complete wrong way. O.K., I was wrong. It wasn't him. My mistake and I admitted to it. No big deal, right? It sure appeared to me that it was him when looking at the picture in a smokey, dark room and from afar. Most other people would agree with me also and especially from that distance.

His interpretation was that I was referring negatively to his shape which is not exactly svelt and Olympian. This error on my eyesight would be comparable to someone mistaking me for someone else who is also tall because that is exactly what I am, standing at over 6' 5". So this was his misconception that he had created in his own mind as he just assumed my comment was made to belittle him.

I had just met him and was probably trying too hard to make conversation by paying him a compliment. So the rest of the night he was indifferent and aloof towards me. But not knowing him, I just figured that this must be a part of his personality.


"Nip It In The Bud"

What I want to know is why didn't he just TELL ME right then and there what the problem was and what his displeasure was in my statement. That would have allowed me to explain myself to him since it was bothering him? This attitude of instant hatred towards me would never have manifested itself inside of him if he had just spoke up to me and demanded a clearer meaning of my statement. But instead I get the cold shoulder and the silent treatment.

If I feel someone has spoken to me in a rude manner, I'm brave enough to inquire and politely ask for an explanation immediately as to what they really meant by their unsavory comment that was directed towards me. I might even express my displeasure towards someone else that knows the offending party better so that they might be able to "clear the air" by asking them for me or possibly acting as a "middleman" for us.

So, I see him later at another event. He totally disrespects me in public to the point of him only speaking to whom I was sitting with and completely ignoring me from only a few feet away. I even extended my hand for a greeting handshake but it was left hanging in the breeze like my Mother's laundry on the clothesline. Keep in mind I am still not aware that he had an issue with me.

The same scenario plays out again and in front of my peers this time who obviously can see his disrespectful behavior towards me as he totally ignores my very presence. Well, by then I am mad because he walks away and is gone while I'm not even able to ask what is the reason for his rude and disrespectful behavior towards me.

I STILL had NO IDEA why at this point. He is still mad at me for HIS misunderstanding but is not man enough to address it with me in private even though he had his chance to on three separate occasions.

At first, I had just assumed he was majorly lacking in basic social skills. You'd be surprised how many people are out there who possess improper manners of introduction and how to act appropriately in group situations. Or possibly he was just painfully shy towards new acquaintances. I gave him the benefit of the doubt even though I was even stretching to the extreme any conclusions on my part.


Someone Has To Be The Adult Here

This is the way I deal with social headbutting between myself and someone else. By being direct, stopping the problem right then and there when I first realize it so we can both be honest rather that just letting it negatively develop and fester anymore. If I'm in the wrong, many times I may not even know it and most times it's just a misunderstanding on their part as a misinterpreted statement made by me. I am man enough to admit when I'm wrong even if I had never intended to be hurtful towards the other person.

Yes, if I had just said nothing at all upon our first meeting when this all began, there would be no problem (that was created in his own mind.) I started this and I can easliy resolve it by apologizing for "shooting my mouth off." Yes, HE had imagined it, but I was the one that had planted the seed. Fine. But I'll need some help on his part, too.

Well I finally found out his problem with me by asking a woman that knew us both why he treated me so rudely in front of my friends and would she ask him for me what had I done to bring on such behavior. A "middle person" for us. She relays back that I had insulted him by inferring that his physique is not exactly "Adonis-like" because I had said he resembled the person in the picture. Again, I am tall and I might resemble other tall people similar looking to me. It happens. (I'm trying my best here to not give a blunt description of the man's waistline.)

He really ought to just be honest with himself like a man and don't pretend his girth doesn't exist. I had explained my error, I had wanted to apologize directly but I was informed by our "go between" that he doesn't want to speak to me even after my case of mistaken identity is revealed.

No, he'd rather pout and not give someone a second chance because of an inadvertent blunder on their part. I still just cannot believe it. I'm not even allowed to discuss it with him, like an adult, in person nor in writing.

I feel bad but it's not like I've murdered someone. But yes, I was wrong... sort of. If he was a real man, he would hear my side and listen to my apology (for his assuming ways.) I'm willing to take all the blame on me so that we can just start over with a clean slate.

Good thing we're not diplomats of opposing countries. Instead it's just two people with one little misunderstanding which could be quickly and easily resolved like compromising adults.


Wait! It's not what it appears to be. Let me explain.

There might be a perfectly good explanation why I am doing this.
There might be a perfectly good explanation why I am doing this. | Source

In Review

1.) I'm even admitting that I'm wrong (for his misunderstanding.) But I'm willing to be the reluctant bad guy here.
2.) I try to explain my error through another person who was immediately relaying my messages in real time. I'd rather he eliminate this ridiculous relay person in the middle but it was the only way he would allow any communication.
3.) However, he doesn't want to accept my apology. Yes, I am man enough to overlook his assuming error, take all the burden of blame and just move on. I'm hoping he will grant me one moment of his time and allow me to tell him in person someday.

How He Is Handling This All Wrong

1.) Being just plain rude and disrespectful to me on different occasions in public while embarrassing me in front of my peers. But I won't "go there" with him and remind him how I feel about that. It's just not worth it to anger him any further or remind him of my displeasure in his immature attitude. I'll just "suck it up," as they say, and not even mention those parts that hurt me inside.
2.) Refusing to even discuss the matter with me nor telling me why he was being so rude towards me until I finally heard it through someone else.
3.) He doesn't have the guts to even listen to my explanation directly either via written word or by "talking it out."

Will I apologize to him and actually mean it if I see him in person again? Of course I will. I can't wait to do so. Will he apologize to me? I don't know but I highly doubt it judging by such childish behavior displayed by him so far. He obviously should do one of the two, at least, if he's any kind of mature adult with forgiveness in his heart and he is considerate enough to see things not just solely from his perspective.


Quotes Regarding Misunderstandings

There are many quotes throughout history regarding misunderstandings from some prominent people. I have gathered a few together for your viewing pleasure. Some I had found were quite long and frankly, too drawn out and even difficult to fully understand.

So I have found some short, contrite quotes that might shed some light on this confusing subject. Hopefully they might help you to understand because I doubt if anyone really knows the best way to resolve a misunderstanding fully. Bravo to you reader, if you are able to do so because it could be the most difficult situation you may ever encounter when dealing with another person.

“It's dreadful what little things lead people to misunderstand each other.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Emily's Quest

“Most of the trouble in life comes from misunderstanding, I think,' said Anne.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island

“True regret is knowing you missed your only opportunity to be simply a good friend to someone that was exactly like you.”
― Shannon L. Alder

“Whenever you can’t balance what you see with what you believe you have conflict.”
― Shannon L. Alder

“The worst distance between two people is misunderstanding”
― Neetesh Dixit

“We're a group of people whose misunderstanding of each other is only topped by people's misunderstanding of us.”
― Thea Hillman, Intersex

“Misunderstanding is one of the worst of ill feelings which can spoil many lives.”
― Lakshmi Menon

“I have often misunderstood men grossly, and I have misrepresented them when I understood them, sacrificing sense to make a phrase. Here, of course, is where even the most conscientious critic often goes aground; he is apt to be an artist before he is a scientist, and the impulse to create something passionately is stronger in him than the impulse to state something accurately.”
― H.L. Mencken, H.L. Mencken's Smart Set Criticism

How Cool Hand Luke and "The Captain" fail to communicate regarding a misunderstanding

One last thought...

Another way to look at it.
Another way to look at it. | Source

Have you ever lost a friend all because of a simple misunderstanding and did you ever resolve the issue?

Submit a Comment

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Very interesting hub Dan. Misunderstanding is one of the biggest problems we face with communication today, and even more so when we engage in online discussions because we cannot hear different into nations in tone of voice or read body language. People really need thicker skins and not jump to conclusions immediately at what others say. We need to give them the benefit of the doubt that it was just a slip of the tongue or that we took it the wrong way. I hope you can resolve the situation with this fellow but it sounds like he is too immature and self-conscious about his girth to forgive you. Good points here, voted up.

  • Dan W Miller profile image
    Author

    Dan W Miller 2 years ago from Southern California now living in Phoenix

    Thank you, my semi-idol.

    Still working my way up through the "public school" of authorship to maybe some day hang out with the "Ivy Leaguers" of writing. (*angels singing*)

    Earlier this year I was in "jr hi." Now I'm a "sophomore." Someday I'll be going to the "Senior Prom" and choosing a "Community College" to prep for (gulp!) the "university."

    Back to hittin' the books!

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Congratulations at mastering the art of inserting images throughout the hub. That's a good start. It won't take long before you are off to the Senior Prom. I was here three years before I mastered what I have, and am still learning.

  • profile image

    sheilamyers 2 years ago

    Great hub! I know there have been times I've felt the same way as the man in your story, but after realizing how childish that type of behavior is, I've apologized to the person who would be like you in the story. I've also been on the receiving end of such behavior and, sadly, most of the time it's family members who act that way. You're example of how each side should handle the situation is excellent. Thanks.

  • Dan W Miller profile image
    Author

    Dan W Miller 2 years ago from Southern California now living in Phoenix

    Jodah, Sheila (a.k.a. "Masters of The Writing Universe") thank you so much. I was a bit worried because I didn't want to sound redundant. But reviewing and making my point clear (I think) is VERY important when writing a hub about a subject such as this.

    EVERYONE has experienced a misunderstanding and yet no one still has an ultimate "blanket" solution to avoiding and resolving them. These steps seems to have worked for me.

    I am just short of 1,000 consecutive baseball and fast pitch games that I have officially umpired without kicking some off the field or out of the game from Men's semi-pro, to girl's high school fast pitch, to seven year old T-ball leagues. That's because I know how to listen and I also know how to "talk it out."

    The human personality is a complicated beast.

  • profile image

    sheilamyers 2 years ago

    Dan: Yes, humans can be very complicated. When there's a misunderstanding I try to get clarification from the person who may have said something I misunderstood. I find that's usually the best way for me to handle the situation.

  • Dan W Miller profile image
    Author

    Dan W Miller 2 years ago from Southern California now living in Phoenix

    Sheila, It sounds SO simple, doesn't it? "Let's talk" is the most understanding statement anyone could say to another person. One has to bring it up, the other simply has to agree to even just listen if they don't want to talk.

  • Express10 profile image

    H C Palting 18 months ago from East Coast

    You have given excellent advice and written a very useful hub that I enjoyed reading.

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