From Understanding to Overstanding to Innerstanding

mind body spirt


Is this just a play on words or do we bring meaning and energy to words when we redefine them or reframe them? Quite possibly, IF we take time to try and explain, otherwise it can be a case of verbal gymnastics at county level, where a clearer understanding can elevate terminology to world champion status. I offer you my humble insights……

Understanding – You hear but you don’t listen. You may even read words but cannot process them as a complete sentence. There is no impact on you what you have seen, heard or read. There is no internal impact emotionally or otherwise. There is no impact externally in terms of your actions in response to your understanding. What has just been said is almost instantly forgotten by the recipient who may just mumble ‘ok’ or ‘I’ll look into it’ or the response is more defensive so the person doesn’t feel listened too but more attacked or invisible – especially if the recipient just ends up talking about themself!

Overstanding – Speaks to a degree of empathy on the part of the recipient or receiver. They FEEL an internal response to what’s being said. There is an internal connection to what they’ve received leading to an emotional response however subtle, seen or unseen, heard or unheard. The continuing dialogue makes the other person feel heard and overstood. There may also be body language that demonstrates empathy. The recipient is left with a sense of some satisfaction. They may have repeated back to you  part of what you’ve said. They may try and show you how they think you’re feeling ‘gosh that must have been really hard for you’. Somehow you feel listened to and respected.

Innerstanding – When overstanding leads to a future action by the receiver compelled by what they have overstood. This action may not have any direct relationship to what the recipient heard but it had deep resonance and impact leading to someone actually doing something spurned on by that moment when the penny dropped deeply and profoundly.

So here’s a scenario:

The assistant manager has been stressed out by the underperformance of her team and the lack  of willingness by the senior managers to deal with it. The dynamic is compounded by the fact that two members of the underperforming team are a sibling and close friend of the manager she is duty bound to raise the issue with. The manager and the assistant manager have another conversation about this longstanding issue. The manager proposes that the assistant manager conducts a review of the team. The assistant manager declines because she feels she is too close to the team and the issuue therefore an independent review by another person would be more effective. She is fearful of the family dynamics and its potential hindrance of a comprehensive review. She also feels she should be a subject not a conductor of the review, being the assistant manager.

Now let’s consider 3 responses:

Demonstrates Understanding – the Manager acknowledges that there’s a problem but insists the assistant manager carries out the review. When the assistant manager resists for reasons stated, the manager tries to exert pressure and feelings of guilt by insisting it’s her duty role and purpose and a refusal is offensive. No evidence of her anxieties being listened to or an acknowledgement of nepotism as a problematic dynamic.

Demonstrates overstanding -The manager acknowledges how the assistant manager may be feeling. They are secure enough to also acknowledge that the family and friends dynamic is a potential problem. They promise to go away and think about it. And they do – for a long time whilst having off record conversations with the friend and sibling that sees a temporary improvement in team relations and productivity. Eventually things begin to slide again. The assistant manager’s stress levels rise again.

Demonstrates innerstanding – The manager acknowledges how the assistant manager may be feeling. They are secure enough to also acknowledge that the family and friends dynamic is a potential problem. They promise to go away and think about it. And they do. They discuss with the senior management team, also bringing the assistant manager’s perspective into the conversation. They spend some more time reflecting on the issue. They periodically remind the assistant manager that they’re dealing with it. After much thought and consultation the manager commissions an independent cross departmental review and commits to acting on the recommendations.

So within this submission I hope more meaning has been brought to these ‘buzzwords’ and  that they can in future have higher leverage in our conversations. What do you think?