Why No One Can Understand Us Unless We Speak – Free Ebook

It sounds absurd when stated baldly, but we
do not always – at some deep level – understand

that we need to speak to those whom we so
badly wish would understand us. We long for

our intentions to be known, for our moods
to be honoured, for our states of mind to

be read – but we do not for that matter
want to speak or particularly see an urgent

need to do so. We want to be guessed at, intuited,
read by a kind of magic we don’t realise

we believe in. We want people to know what
we have not bothered to tell them. We may

even, in certain moods, suspect that they
know full well what we think and want – but

are deliberately frustrating us in order to
score points and humiliate us. The only explanations

for them not having guessed already is rudeness,
a lack of love or extreme stupidity. We think

like this not because we are evil; we are
stubbornly mute because we were, for a short

but profound length of time infants. In other
words, for a significant stretch, we were

in the odd position that we could not utter
a word. Others had to guess what was on our

minds. And most importantly, for a while,
they more or less got it right. They listened

to our crying, they witnessed our angry faces,
they saw our outstretched arms; they had a

shot at guessing and they got it right. They
fetched some milk, they picked up nounou from

the floor, they put us on their shoulder and
walked us around the living room – and we

felt calm and satiated. They were not geniuses
at interpersonal understanding, they guessed

correctly because it was easy. The things
we needed back then were so uncomplicated

and so limited: food and drink, clean clothes,
sleep, hygiene and reassurance. It is this

ancestral memory of successful mind-reading
that has the paradoxical effect of making

us more isolated and intemperate than we need
to be in later life. We keep expecting that

a process which unfolded successfully when
we were young might continue to occur – even

though we have grown infinitely more sophisticated
in what we need to be understood for. We don’t

just need the milk and a cuddle, we now need
people to understand how our diary is looking

next week, what the hand we put around them
in bed means, how the kitchen should be left,

where the towels need to hang, how the document
should get back to the NY office, who should

have the remote control and how we feel about
their mother. And we want them to know all

this not on the basis of careful and slow
instructions and eloquent, patient and playful

disquisitions, but immediately, just like
that, on the basis that they are intelligent

and that they care for us. And if they don’t
understand, then there might be cause to shout,

to accuse them of laziness or a lack of affection
or to fire them. We are terrible communicators

because we refuse to accept the dignity, necessity
and complexity of the act of communication.

We wander the earth with the problems of sophisticated
adults insisting on believing that we are

as easy to understand as infants.

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