It’s difficult when you’re misunderstood.
When I say “misunderstood” – I don’t mean when I am misunderstood as a whole, since it’s impossible for us to ever understand each other as people, completely.
No, instead I mean situation by situation, when my words are not heard for the real message behind them, or when my actions are not viewed as I intend them.
I feel a strong sense of frustration when my motivations are misjudged.
Without a doubt, my high sensitivity and introversion both contribute to why other people misunderstand me.
My silence is easily misinterpreted by others.
People around me sometimes assume I am in a bad mood, when really I am lost in my thoughts or concentrating on the tasks at hand. I also get flustered by pressure, which sometimes comes across as though I am angry. I freeze up awkwardly in certain social situations, and it can give the impression that I am uninterested or unwilling to talk.
My quietness is the usual cause for misunderstanding with people who do not know me. As a rule, I don’t give a running verbal discourse of what I’m thinking, in the way I notice many other people seem to do.
I am quieter than most. I do my best thinking in my head, not out of my mouth.
Plus, my instinct is to protect my thoughts. Partly, because I am cautious of being hurt by others. But mostly because…my thoughts are mine. I carefully choose who I share them with. I don’t share them with just anyone.
I am typically more silent than my co-workers, or when I’m associating with acquaintances. When I do speak, I reveal very little personal information about myself, and I tend to rely on participating in conversation by asking questions, rather than giving answers.
When I am with loved ones, the usual culprit for being misunderstood is not my silence, but rather the fact that the words I do speak sometimes don’t match my thoughts or feelings well.
Verbal communication is my weakness. Give me a keyboard, and I can slowly weave out a complex, well-worded description of what I’m thinking or feeling.
But ask me to explain something verbally – particularly if it’s emotionally charged – and my mind feels as though it’s fighting to pull words out through molasses.
When I am emotional, I become confused easily while I speak. I find myself wishing for the buffer zone between the backspace key and the enter key.
But instead I have to deal with the pressure of getting the words right, the first time. And they’re never right the first time.
Words might make their way out of me, sure, but there’s no guarantee they actually match what I feel inside. During conflict this causes misunderstanding galore, because I will often end up saying things which give a wrong impression of how I actually feel.
And no matter how many different ways I try to word the phrase “no, what I meant by that was…”, it always sounds like I am backpedaling, or changing my story.
So I end up feeling defeated. And I give up on talking. Mute and misunderstood.
Because I feel misunderstood so regularly, I battle against the temptation to blame it all on the people around me. The ‘if only’s’ of blame start to form in my mind.
If only they would stop making assumptions about my silence, or if only they would be more patient when my words don’t come out right the first five times.
This all might sound like I’m going on a bit of a “poor me” kick, and really I’m not. Granted, I’m human – I do have pity parties, table for one, occasionally.
Sometimes I need the time to lick my wounds and feel sorry for myself. But I’m typically not a person who wallows in self pity.
Self pity is unproductive, it’s a waste of energy, and frankly, it only ever ends up turning people into someone who is unpleasant to be around. So, I am careful not to sit at that table for too long.
It is far more helpful for me to move on from the temptation to stop at blaming others. Instead, I have to be real with myself about the ways in which my high sensitivity and introversion contribute to the problem of being misunderstood.
I look at the times I am misunderstood in an objective manner. When I look at it in this way, it feels like I’m stepping away from it to analyze it from the outside. To figure it out…to puzzle it out, piece by piece.
It’s introspection from the outside view, always with the desire for growth in mind. Stopping at blame causes me to become stagnant in internal growth.
On the flip side, I am not suggesting that I am entirely at fault every time I am misunderstood, either. I am who I am.
My personality plays a role in wires getting crossed between myself and the people around me, but so does the personality of the other person.
Misunderstandings arise because different people view and process things…differently.
The challenge is to pull ourselves back to a neutral spot. When my quietness is misunderstood as snobbery by an acquaintance, for instance, it’s bothersome, because I have no opportunity to explain.
But, when I take a moment to imagine it from their perspective, I can see how I come across that way. I reason with myself from that neutral position. I look at their perspective and mine, in a combination, rather than focusing on who to pin the blame on.
What is the cure for being misunderstood as an highly sensitive introvert?
There isn’t one.
It will happen throughout our lives. There is no “fix” for it, and it will probably always feel frustrating when it happens.
We cannot escape differing perspectives, personalities, and the different ways people process things. And, I wouldn’t want to get away from them. The world would be boring if we were all the same.
We can move beyond the temptation to stop at blame, and instead reach toward sorting through those puzzle pieces of perspective. When we step away from only looking at something through our own eyes and into a more middle ground viewpoint, we can start to determine a course of action.
Whether that action is to change up our communication style in order to express ourselves more clearly, shrug our shoulders emotionally and let something go, or continue to speak our minds in the same manner, we create the chance for understanding, self-acceptance, and developing clearer connections with the people in our lives.
A bend in the road led me to embrace my introversion, and to discover my identity as a highly sensitive person. As I have moved along the path in learning more about who I am, how to take care of myself as an introvert, and how to handle the challenges of life as an HSP - my love of writing has been rekindled and embraced once again. It intertwines with the journey I am on, and is reflected in what I write.