Leading Volunteers You To Be Misunderstood

To Lead Is To Be Misunderstood

Nathan Smith Leadership, Relationships

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There are few things more frustrating and more challenging than being misunderstood. No matter how hard you work to communicate your intentions or explain your actions someone is going to misinterpret your motive and judge your decision. Though this is a universal truth, it is never more true than when you assume a leadership role. It could be as a CEO of a large corporation, the leader of a PTO at a school, or choosing a family activity for all to enjoy. No matter the scale or scope, you will be misunderstood nearly as often as you take action. This paralyzes some and fosters bitterness in others. But indecision and a hardened heart are just as challenging to navigate as being misunderstood. So how are you supposed to move forward in such an environment? (Click Here to Read My Post ‘Are You Humble Enough To Appear Arrogant?’)

Naturally, there are different kinds of being misunderstood, so let me try and make myself clear lest I be…. well, you get it.  There IS such a thing as not communicating clearly.  We certainly have a responsibility to make every effort to get our intent and message across in the clearest of ways. That’s not the kind of misunderstanding I’m talking about.  My focus is on those moments when you’ve shared the vision, you’ve clarified the ‘win’, you’ve taken decisive action, and then got accused of doing something completely ‘other’.  Your motive got called into question or things were taken personally that were never intended to even be directed at a person in the first place! This kind of misunderstanding can cause deep divisions, sour attitudes and create a toxic environment while leaving you scratching your head wondering how you got there. This brand of ‘being misunderstood’ will eventually make its way into any relationship. The question is how should you respond to it? (Click Here To Read My Post ‘Relationships Are Always Worth Restoring’)

3 Things to Do When You’ve Been Misunderstood

 1.  Recognize Being Misunderstood Is Part of the Process

If you start by believing the presence of a misunderstanding somehow means you are horrible at relationships or have no business being a leader then you set yourself up for major disappointment. In this life, few things will dis-appoint you from your role of influence as easily as disappointment. You do yourself no favors by misunderstanding this issue yourself. Being misunderstood is part of the journey and the sooner you accept it, the faster you can move forward toward resolution.

2.  Empathize With the Person That Has Misunderstood You

They may be so far out in left field with the way they interpreted your words or actions that it is literally beyond comprehension. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the best way to build a connection so that clarity can come is to validate the possibility of a misunderstanding and to make an effort to see how they came to their conclusion. If that feels beneath you, then you have become more focused on being right than you have on getting to a place of clarity… and your relationship, team, or organization needs clarity more than they need you to be right.

3.  Be Willing to Make Adjustments AND Be Willing to Stand Your Ground

You may not be sure which of those tools will be needed but you must be able to utilize either.  The issue will be determining which hills you are willing to die on and which ones you are not.  There absolutely are deal-breakers when it comes to clarity in a relationship or in an organization but not everything is a deal-breaker.  Did the person offer some helpful observations that can aide in future clarity? Accept it, be grateful for the new found insight and move forward. Is the ‘misunderstanding’ simply revealing an attitude or toxic behavior in the other person? You may have to make adjustments in the relationship for the health of the friendship, organization or your own peace of mind. You are no good to anyone if you are being drained by someone in your life or company that has no desire for clarity but simply desires endless opportunities to point out everything they think is wrong with your communication, people-skills or leadership. There comes a point when ‘being misunderstood’ becomes being disapproved of in total.  At that point a change has to be made. (Click Here to Read My Post ‘Boundaries Break Down Barriers”)

If we’re going to love and lead people well we must realize there will be challenges along the way. Live in such a way that it is easy for people to give you the benefit of the doubt because of the character you consistently display. Even then you can expect that you will be misunderstood at some point no matter how clear or sincere you try to be.  When that challenge comes, remember these steps and rely on the Lord to give you wisdom and grace for the hard conversations. It has long been said that the presence of trials doesn’t equal the absence of God.  He is with us IN the storm and will help us navigate forward, but we must be willing to accept the challenge, humble ourselves and make the hard decision. Love well.  Lead well. Leave the rest in God’s able hands.

From the Bible  

We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness[c] and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you. – 2 Corinthians 1:12 NLT 

Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” – Mark 6:4 NLT 

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3 ESV

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