Anyone with teenagers has heard, “You just don’t understand!” Usually this is delivered with a whining, complaining, or depressing voice.
I hear this from adults too. Like teenagers, in most cases this is uttered when someone is not getting their way. Since they believe they are right, they want to make it clear it “must” be the other person’s fault for not only failing to understand but also for failing to agree.
Sometimes the other person really does not understand. However, it is usually the person who says, “You don’t understand!” who is the one failing to understand. What they have missed is usually due to a lack of experience or perspective. They don’t know what they don’t know. Or they don’t know what they refuse to understand and learn.
Unfortunately, I see this behavior in business as well, albeit in a slightly different version expressed as, “They don’t understand.” It is different not only because it is plural but because it is often said “about” someone instead of “to” someone. This statement is used to dismiss clients, colleagues and bosses as wrong and ignorant.
Now, I know there are plenty of times someone genuinely does not understand. Despite my best efforts, I’ve had prospective clients not understand the value I believed we could bring to their project or company. Maybe they were right, maybe they weren’t. But between us, someone didn’t understand something. That happens and you just try to work through it for everyone’s benefit.
Once you start (or contingue) to see the world as “us” versus “them” you have limited yourself. You’ll be more focused on being right and less focused on understanding. Without better understanding and perspective, you’ll be left with little power except to bully, whine, or pout. And you just won’t understand.
Glenn S. Phillips is the author of the book Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. You can email Glenn directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Glenn is also the president of Forte’ Incorporated, a consulting firm that works with business leaders to understand and address the often hidden technology and business risks lurking within their organizations.
© Copyright 2012. Glenn S. Phillips, Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111