4 Steps When You Have Misunderstood


We all get things messed up!  We all have misheard.  Whether it was a popular song, such as the picture above, a co-worker, or friend, we can misunderstand what is being said.  Often, we are not paying attention and just make things up so people feel like we actually are paying attention.  Other times, sadly, people have an agenda and try to foster ill-will to propagate their current philosophy.  Then there are those times when we genuinely misheard something and everyone enjoys a good laugh.

What do we do when what we heard and repeated was wrong and it hurts the reputation of a person or organization?  Growing up, everyone one I knew thought Polish people, known to us as Polacks, were absolute idiots.  What we say has effect.  What do we do when what has been said turns out to not be true?  What do we do if what we have heard seems to, later, have come from an unreliable source?  Here are a few steps to redeem the time, a person, and possibly a reputation.

  1. Examine your position. Starting with yourself is usually the best position.  Are you holding onto anger or resentment toward the individual about whom you have heard bad reports?  Is there a personal issue that would cause you to grab onto anything?  Often, the problem lies not only in the one who told you, but also within you.  Are the negative emotions you feel solely based on someone else’s testimony or your own experiences?  Have your recent experiences been tainted by that testimony and now have skewed your perspective?  Consider you own heart in the matter.  Take it to Jesus and receive cleansing first.
  2. Consider the source. My Dad used to tell me this a lot.  I would come home bummed because of what people said or did.  He would say, “Consider the source.”  What does that mean?  To me, it does not provide deniability.  What it does is help me to consider the person’s life position and struggle.  When I do, I begin to grasp why they might have acted or spoken as they did.  However, it does not mean they are without wrong.  Also, if the person who gave you bad information is discovered to be less than upright, we must re-examine our position toward the person spoke of in prior conversations.  Like the lawyer who is found guilty of mishandling evidence, every trial is now up for inspection.
  3. Take a Step Back. When the source of our mistrust, anger, or resentment is uncovered outside of our own prejudice or experience then we must step back and re-evaluate.  Have we treated this person or organization poorly and spoken poorly to other people based on wrong information?  If so, we must seek to fix the problem.  It may call for an apology to the one who has been wronged, though they may not even realize anything has happened.  Here, discretion is critical.  If bringing it up will cause a greater problem then I would suggest simply moving forward without revelation and just let them enjoy a new respect and love they had not received before.
  4. The Golden Rule. It’s simplicity is its strength.  When considering how you might treat, talk about, or respect, do so as if it were going to be how you would receive the same.  Once you have taken a step back, it is time to step forward again.  When the Golden Rule is in effect and used by those in your family or organization then win-win moments rise up and adjust your interpersonal issues toward a more positive moment.

We all mess up.  We all have sent and received bad information at one time or another.  Hopefully, it was not with malicious intent!  Let us season our message and life with grace and mercy and allow for those mistakes.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

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