Photo: Elle UK
Words by: Tamisha Ford
My whole life, since I was old enough to remember, I’ve felt very misunderstood by so many people.
People in my family, people in my friendship circles over the years, teachers, bosses, you name it.
I’ve even been one of those women who people stop in public and say “smile – life isn’t that bad”, whilst I was having a perfectly wonderful day. (That is SO rude, by the way – please don’t be one of those people). You never know why someone looks the way they do on that particular day, what kind of day they’ve had or are having, or that maybe they just aren’t like you.
Whether it’s been my facial expressions (or lack thereof), my tone, how I said something, my point of view, or how I describe things, it’s just been my nemesis my whole life to feel misunderstood by others.
Maybe you can relate.
I thought I would take a moment and describe some of the thoughts behind these accusations and ways of being in order to put some perspective out in the ether. Perhaps if you also deal with some or all of these, you can share, in order to bring someone to an understanding of more of who you – WE – are.
“You Look Mad All The Time”
I’m not a cheeser. And I can’t even be sorry – I just can’t walk around smiling all the time – or “smizing” for that matter. (Thanks, Tyra but not everyone is good at this). I happen to have 3 things working against me that keep me in consistent deep inner thought – I’m an introvert, a highly sensitive person, and a Virgo. I have a solid understanding that this means I will likely not always look like I’m present (even though I try to be always in the company of others), happy (even though I might be elated & you’d not know it), or interested in what you’re saying (it happens).
To be clear though, if I’m mad, you’ll know it because I’m also very direct about my emotions. However, the other 90% of the time when someone thinks I’m mad, I’m actually not. I can be having the best day and someone say this to me and it ruins the rest of my day.
Some people aren’t mad – they just don’t have a resting smile face. Ever heard of resting bitch face? Well, it’s counter isn’t always resting smile face. Sometimes, someone’s just enjoying their day and has literally no expression at the time. It doesn’t mean she’s bitchy or doesn’t like you.
Yes, some etiquette coaches will tell you there’s things you can do to “rest” your face muscles and appear more approachable, but honestly, my approach is to just be great with who you are. If you’re anything like me, I’m most interested in the person who will get to know me anyway – if you’re that concerned with how I look when I have nothing to say, we probably don’t have anything to say to each other.
Photo: Elle UK
“Why Are You So Quiet?”
I’m assertive. I tend to speak up when it matters, and I don’t struggle doing so. I’ve been that way for a long time – a boat rocker, disrupter, and all-around issue-tackler. Again – not sorry. It’s simply how I’m wired. I love who I am.
However, when I choose to not speak up, there’s a valid reason for it. Maybe I’m picking my battles or I just honestly don’t have anything to share at the time. I tend to quiet when I’m thinking, contemplating, or processing. As a person with deep layers, it can take me days to process one conversation. I will think of a host of other things I wish I would’ve said or now want to say now that I’ve had time to process the discussion. It’s a double-edged sword – it can save you from saying things in the moment you shouldn’t, but it can frustrate you later when it might be too late to say the things you wish you would’ve.
Sometimes being quiet will bother others when they’d rather you yell or talk. That’s something that person needs to learn about you and learn how to notice.
Having your silences misinterpreted is just one of the things you’ve got to learn to handle – I do this by understanding it’s a part of who I am and thus, will sometimes cause friction with others. There are a few options:
- They’ll approach me about my silence, and I’ll let them know when I’m ready to discuss it. They’ll respect it and we’ll move on until then.
- They’ll approach me about my silence, and I’ll let them know I’m not ready to discuss it. It might cost me the relationship.
- They won’t approach me about my silence because they know me and know I’ll talk when I’m ready.
- They won’t approach me at all and the issue goes unresolved until I take initiative to resolve.
- Both parties totally forget it because it’s not actually that important to dwell on. (This is quite passive with a lot of assumption involved)
- Both parties agree to ignore it even though it should be discussed. (This causes unsaid friction and tension in the relationship that new stuff can come in and make worse)
- I’ll make sure that if something really matters to me, I’ll take the initiative to approach it. (Assertive communicating)
#’s 1 and 7 are really the best two options when you feel your silence has been misinterpreted.
“Can You Explain That?”
Let me be clear. Clarity isn’t something I’ve been blessed with, in general. Unless it’s something I intimately understand and have direct experience with, it’s likely to be very clear in my brain and extremely confusing when it comes out of my mouth or on paper. If I don’t have a lot of information about a topic I’m supposed to present on or discuss, it will bomb. Every time. However, if I know what I’m talking about, I love to teach it and I can give you clarity all day, baby. This flaw can cause people to misunderstand me, my principles, my values, and my thoughts.
So what I’m learning about myself is to simply stick to what I know. Entirely. And moreover, new discoveries into the deep understanding & world I have inside of me might have to stay there more often. Sharing selectively, in courses, and upon request might work best.
“You’re SO Blunt!”
Yes. I am. And I love that about myself. Absolutely love it. In a world full of sugar coating, lying to someone to get their approval or “like”, I like to occasionally cut through the noise when needed (hence, posts like this).
One of my favorite quotes by my dear friend and author of The Convivial Woman, Cheryl Chavarria:
“I’m a sensitive communicator, but I’m not over here handing out ear candy.”
That’s seriously one of my favorite quotes of all time because it describes me perfectly. People often misunderstand me in that, they don’t understand how I can be so direct, yet so sensitive myself. My only response is I’m a paradoxical human just like the next person.
A person can be sensitive and assertive too.
Unfortunately, if you’re like me, it makes passive and more flowery-languaged people uncomfortable. All I can tell you is it takes a deep comfort level in who you are to understand this will happen on occasion (or maybe more), and that it’s always best to just let people know that you’re a straight shooter and very direct – you don’t skirt around the issues.
Something else you need to know/understand about this as well is that, because you hold in high esteem and value approaching someone directly, you might get easily frustrated or heated by people who don’t have this value – people who won’t come to you directly when you’ve done or said something that bothered them. You’ve got to realize that, just because you hold this as a high value, someone else might not (unfortunately). Some people would rather utilize their position, power, or passive approach to address you. It will be frustrating as hell, but remember this is where the frustration comes from. Not everyone communicates this way.
I have 2 questions I’d like to ask you:
- Did I not list something here that you’d like to share? Some way you’re misunderstood that irks you to no end? Please share it in the comments!
- Which one of these resonates with you the most and why? I’d love to hear about it.
Thanks for reading my tales of misunderstanding,