“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
– Timothy Keller
One of the most basic human needs is to feel known and understood. When you don’t feel like your friends and family really know you or understand you, you start to feel isolated and disconnected. Ignoring those negative feelings for too long will inevitably lead to loneliness and depression. Feeling understood, however, helps keep you from that isolation and disconnection. Knowing that others care about what you’re feeling will help you to not feel so alone when you’re going through tough times.
If you want others to understand you, though, it’s vital that you understand yourself. It’s imperative that YOU know and understand who you are and how you fit into this world first in order for anyone else to truly understand you. Don’t pretend to be someone else or mask your feelings and emotions. Be real. If you want to feel understood, you’ve got to find the courage to be vulnerable. Being open and honest with people will allow them to really know you. As a result, they’ll be more likely to be vulnerable and honest with you in return. That’s when you’ll begin connecting with people on a much deeper level and improving the quality of your relationships. That’s when you’ll find true satisfaction and enjoyment in your life, even during sad times.
Find a way to make everyone you come in contact with feel known and understood, even for just a short moment. Listen to your inner wisdom during every interaction for what needs to be done and what words need to be said. You can’t imagine the deep joy this will ignite in your heart and the huge impact you’ll make as a joy ninja who’s out to change the world.
Your training exercise is to conduct an interview with someone. There’s no better way to make someone feel more known and understood than to sit down and ask them questions directly. Choose a person you’d like to strengthen your relationship with, or maybe even choose someone you know doesn’t get socialized with much. Keep in mind: this exercise is guaranteed to create or deepen a friendship with the interviewee, so be ready for that.
When you have a moment for some good one-on-one time with the person you’ve chosen, start asking them the questions from your joy journal. The joy journal questions are perfect for these conversations because they’re open-ended, and there’s no right or wrong answer. They invite vulnerability without inviting judgment. They’re safe and light-hearted. There’s no need to write down the interviewee’s answers while they talk; just listen. Don’t interrupt them to talk about yourself!! Be fully present and attentive, taking in all the new things that you’re discovering about this person.
When they’re done, be ready for them to ask you the same questions. Chances are, now that they’ve opened up to you, they’ll expect you to open up as well. Be real and vulnerable. At the end of the conversation, you’ll both be all smiles, and you’ll probably discover some things you have in common. And then you can plan a future get together that you know will bring you both joy, and you’ll create a wonderful memory!
WARNING: this interview exercise can be addictive, and you may experience the urge to conduct more of these interviews on the regular. As a result, you may develop an addiction to cultivating relationships and developing close bonds with others. It may lead to creating happy memories and general satisfaction in life. You’ve been warned.