The Cost of Misunderstanding

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Although predominantly focused on racial tensions, the 2004 film “Crash” crushed me with the chaos misunderstandings, lack of communication, and mistaken assumptions cause.

In the film, one character misinterprets another character’s mindset—a mindset stemming from challenges ongoing in another part of his life or incidents immediately preceding their encounter—and disaster ensues. “Crash” drove home for me how our blindness to other people’s realities prevents us from understanding and appreciating their perspectives.

In a previous post about whether empathy distinguishes the human animal, I mentioned biologists’ findings that empathy, while innate, requires ongoing practice to refine.

We cannot have empathy without understanding. “Crash” shows the impossibility of empathy when people use personal points of view to make assumptions about or judge others rather than making the effort to understand another person’s circumstances as the framework for his actions and beliefs.

Without understanding, we cause chaos—if not destruction.

Our differences make this a magical world. I don’t want homogeneity—and neither should you. Through successful interaction between cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds, races, religions, political stances, and personality types, we can all grow. This world can thrive.

Another approach to a situation may prove better than yours. And if not, it may not be a worse approach, either. At the very least, making an attempt to understand someone else through respectful inquiry or through self-education will open new horizons for you—and help solve problems, rather than exacerbate them and engender new issues.

Try to understand. Give another person the benefit of the doubt. Stay open.

For you, what recent crisis could communication and empathy have averted?