Understanding vs. Accepting

ThisĀ blog postĀ was featured in the Huffington Post on July 28, 2015.

I assume this has happened to you too. It happens to me when having a disagreement with some people and, increasingly so, with some readers of my blogs.

It goes something like this:

We have a disagreement.

The other party says to me: “You do not agree because you don’t understand,” assuming that if I could understand, I would agree with him or her. Or to say it differently, the person claims that the reason why I do not agree with him or her is because I do not understand either the situation, the opposing argument or both. As soon as I do I will agree.

This is usually false.

I understand. I just don’t agree.

The collateral argument is more interesting:

If I try to understand something and claim to have understood it, then some people believe it means I agree with what I have just understood.

False again.

Take my recent blog on the decline of the USA.

I was trying to understand how the western sanctions are affecting the global power structure. My understanding was that it might marginalize the USA. It might backfire on the U.S. If true, then the sanctions were making Putin stronger rather than weaker.

Does it mean I support Putin?

Understanding does not mean supporting; and not supporting or not agreeing does not necessarily mean not understanding. They are related concepts but not synonymous.

It gets more complicated.

One reason for not understanding is not knowing enough. Not having enough information. So the person arguing with me levels the accusation that we disagree because I do not understand and I do not understand because I do not know enough, don’t have a grasp of the facts. Or the history. Or the background.

As if they know more.

Obviously it is a put down.

Who really knows more? Who has more command of the background and knowledge? Of the historical perspective?

If you know something I do not know, please speak up and tell me. Teach me and I will do the same for you, but don’t shut me up claiming that I do not agree because I do not understand and I do not understand because I am ignorant. As if you are the knowledgeable one.

Do you see the arrogance?

The lack of respect?

If you disagree with me, explain why. Enlighten me. Inform me about what it is you know that I do not and I will do the same for you.

And if there is nothing more to learn, and we still disagree, maybe it is because we have different priorities; we give different weight to the same factors. And that is all right.

We agree to disagree; no put downs, no hard feelings.

Just thinking.

Ichak Kalderon Adizes