Misunderstandings and Hurt Feelings – The role of our survival instinct

 In Better Life, Negative emotions, Relationships

We just bought a popup camper! Yay! Since we’ve always used a tent, I’m looking forward to a more luxurious and comfortable experience. But we have a lot to learn.

For example, my husband was trying to explain to me that the overhead lights in the ceiling have a jack to plug in a reading light. I was totally confused. Why would I want a reading light right next to the dome light? So I kept asking questions.

I could tell my husband was getting impatient by the tone of his voice. Did he think I was stupid? My survival instinct didn’t like his judgment (real or imagined). I could feel myself getting irritated. So I took a breath.

Finally, I understood that the reading light had a long stretchy cord so you could plug it in and then move it into the bed area. Cool!

It reminded me how a misunderstanding or confusion can lead to an argument or hurt feelings. Maybe we hear someone wrong, or they don’t understand us. The next thing we know, we’re feeling upset. Has this ever happened to you?

Just last night I made a new kind of pizza. My husband asked, “Why do you call it buffalo chicken pizza? There’s no buffalo meat on it.” I impatiently replied that I’m not the one who named it buffalo chicken. He looked at me funny and then said, “I asked why they call it buffalo chicken, not you.” Ah, yes; another misunderstanding that triggered my survival instinct.

Our survival instinct is a reflex. It’s super fast and always on guard. So it takes some practice to override it. Here are some of my favorite approaches to make it easier;

  • Take a breath
  • Remind yourself that your irritation is due to this strong instinct
  • Stay curious about your own reaction and the other person’s reaction (What did they really mean? What did they misunderstand?)
  • Find empathy. Both you and the other person are wired to have a strong Judge and to jump to the worst conclusion

Life constantly gives us opportunities to practice this approach. Sometimes we might fail, but if we keep trying, it does get easier. Look for opportunities this week ??

Recommended Posts