Monthly Archives: November 2013

There is a big difference between knowing and understanding something. Knowing something only gets you to the start of a possible long journey. A long journey that must be taken to reach complete understanding.

When you are a child in the passenger seat you gain knowledge of how to drive. You know how to turn the wheel, accelerate and break. Pretty simple stuff. Then you go get your learners permit. You know the rules of the road. You “know” how to drive. But there is a big gap between where you are now and actually being able to drive properly. You will get in the car with one of your parents supervising. You will put the theory into practise. You will begin the process of understanding. Only after some time will you really understand what it is to drive.

Probably the hardest thing about this is that it is difficult to know yourself if you have reached the point of understanding or if there is a long way to go. For it is easy to think you have understood if you compare yourself to how you used to think previously. But you have no conception of what it is like to think at a more advanced level until you have actually reached it. This is why many people often assume they have advanced quite far down the road when in reality they have barely even begun. This is why we sometimes need a teacher who is further ahead to show us the way.

You may know a lot of great things. But the point where knowing transitions into understanding is the point where it becomes part of you, it becomes fully entrenched in your thoughts, words and actions. It is automatic.

This is why you can hear great words from someone who may genuinely mean them. But there is a gap between what they say and what they do. If you fully and genuinely understand something then you actions will always conform to it.

I’ve developed a framework for thinking about the depth and quality of relationships and came up with a kind of “relationship spectrum”.

Why do I develop these frameworks? What’s the point? I find it helps me see things more clearly particularly in the blurry area of interpersonal relations. You can plan a path forward with the current and new companions in your life. You can decide if the quality of your relationships is good enough and what to do about it (try harder or step back). You can better prioritise who to devote your limited energy to.

From the first meeting you gradually advance through these levels eventually settling on one. Sometimes the level can recede. Sometimes it can fluctuate up and down. Often we will think we are on a higher level that we are due to certain illusions.

Which level the relationship is on can be analysed using the 4 Elements framework.

Level 1 – Apathy: You either don’t know them or you know that you don’t want to know them. If someone stays at this level then they have probably shown signs of significant incompatibility.

Level 2 – Sympathy: This person seems “all right”. You care and feel some compassion. You genuinely wish the person well from a distance. You don’t make time for them but aren’t adverse to small doses. They might even make it to your facebook.

Level 3 – Friendliness: You like the person but there isn’t a real connection. You might hang out now and then. Perhaps often. But there is a lack of depth. Most people start to use the word “friend” at this point. Conversation doesn’t get very personal and generally remains on a superficial level. These relationships do not rely on any high degree of mutual understanding and are usually just to fulfil basic needs of connection. They provide comfort and a sense of belonging. Some people who have problems forming close bonds with others will often have a lot of these with nothing much above. This relationship is generally reliant on regular contact and therefore as one goes through life many of these relationships tend to come and go.

Level 4 – Affection: This is where feelings of love begin. You “click” conversationally. You have decent chemistry and hang out quite a bit. You are “good friends”. You confide in each other but still keep a lot to yourself. If you move apart you will still keep in touch on occasion. People who you have a lot of shared history with but have drifted away a bit may sit here.

Level 5 – Attachment: You have strong feelings of love and attachment for this person. You miss them if you don’t see them for a while. You may Skype them regularly if you move apart. Most average marriages are at this level as are longer term friends.

Level 6 – Devotion: You are completely devoted. You think about this person a lot. This is a pretty high level of relationship except that complete understanding is not achieved but there is still a high level of it. Good marriages are at this level and so are most life long friendships. You can only maintain a few people in this category at any one time and some people will not have any.

Level 7 – Complete Bond: There is nothing between you. No secrets. No misunderstanding. You desire to know every little detail of each other. To be capable of having a relationship of this type requires both people to have a high interpersonal intelligence and be very outwardly focused. This kind of relationship is extremely rare and most people never have one hence the saying “we are all alone”. I can only think of about 3 people I know who are at a high enough level of development to be able to get to this point with anyone.

What do you all think? This seems to make sense to me. Share any adaptations you might make for yourself.


“I Disagree.” This has been said to me many times. All to often it just ends there. The person making the statement is unable to give any thorough, well thought out explanation as to why they disagree. They “just do”. When countered with a few “why?” questions they will often get uncomfortable or even upset that you haven’t merely accepted their disagreement and left it at that.

Don’t get me wrong. I love disagreement. I actually find it far more interesting than agreement because it is an opportunity to learn something new or get a different perspective which can influence my own. But the disagreement has to be real. It has to be based on a clear chain of logic.

If that isn’t provided all I see is someone who has heard something which conflicts with their reality. This raises uncomfortable and complex questions that may be accompanied by distressing feelings.

They don’t really understand why they disagree and often they don’t have any real interest in finding out. This is an example of operation on a shallow level of thinking – a realm of thought which is dominated by instincts, fears, preconceived ideas and prejudices. This is the land of simplistic thinking. The land of confusion. We need to cut through this to find the real answers.

Sometimes we may disagree with our interpretation of what a person is saying but not with what they actually mean to say. This is why there needs to be a lot of clarification so that everyone is aligned in understanding what is actually being discussed.

I think it is ridiculous to tie the concepts of being “right” or “wrong” to personal ego. We are all just seeking the truth. Let’s seek together. This attitude is a damaging and sometimes dangerous barrier to effective communication and empathy. Whether we discover ourselves to be “right” or “wrong” it doesn’t matter because either way we have discovered the truth!

“How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.”
~Benjamin Disraeli

Why be upset by a person’s words? If a person says what they genuinely believe, why be upset to hear it?

Maybe it is the intent that we should care about. Is the intent to help or to harm?
Maybe it is the actions we should care about. Don’t actions show what a person really thinks and feels?

The lower the self-esteem of a person and the more insecurities they have – the easier they are upset. The words are an assault on their fragile egos.

We need to be careful how we listen to and observe people. We often hear their words and see their actions through our own biased lens. We give our own meanings to them without properly interpreting theirs.

Instead we should focus on understanding “why” they are saying or doing something. What do they mean by it? Only then can we truly understand.

If we let insecurities and emotions get in the way we will have a communication break down – this is never a good thing.

If you are secure in yourself then a person expressing their perceptions of you or anything else should always be welcomed – even if you don’t agree!

The key here is to communicate until you can reach understanding. Not communicating with someone is not caring about them.

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