Idiomdrottning’s homepage

That you don’t know what you did wrong makes it so much worse

For most people, and I’m not an exception, a conflict usually feels even worse when the other person doesn’t even acknowledge or seem to understand what they did wrong. It’s adding insult to injury, it feels like they’re doubling down on their own bad behavior.

But I’ve been in so many situations where it’s me that just don’t genuinely understand where I messed up. Once the other person calms down and explains it, I’m like “Ooooh! Yeah, now I get it, you’re absolutely right, I could see what I did was awful”, or maybe it’s a misunderstanding (“You thought it sounded like I said ‘jerk’? I said ‘work’!”) or maybe I do double down because I can be kinda stubborn but at least then I’m actually doubling down and it’s not just the illusory “you should know what you did wrong” that feels like a doubling down but most of the time is just genuine Hanlon’s law confusion.

Humans might be extraordinary machines but we are confusing and inconsistent and flaky and come loaded with our own sets of preconceptions and illusions, especially when the interface between us is “language”, probably better known as random noise that occasionally manages to get an idea across correctly but more often just tear us apart further.

So, and I’m trying to give myself this advice, too:

Once you’ve calmed down a little, and the other person is trying to understand where they went wrong, it’s not 100% on them to realize it on their own. We can help each other understand and explain and answer each other’s questions, which can be super worth it, if it’s a core relationship.