the destructive power of ‘but you don’t understand!’ and what to use instead? — COM102

I was having a conversation with hanane, and I was explaining to her a direction for a project. after repeating multiple times, I over-reacted and said: ‘but you don’t understand!’

and that’s when I realized that this instantly made her a lot more insecure about her non-understanding. and a lot more likely to beat herself up and understand even less.  so I took a moment of silence and thought to myself: ‘maybe it’s not hanane that’s not getting it. maybe I’m taking the wrong approach for hanane in explaining things.’ then I spoke:

‘I’m sorry, I reacted. let me explain it this way…’ this instantly removed the blame away from hanane, and 2 minutes later we were both heading down the same direction.

sometimes we make assumptions about where the other person is, and this makes us feel that we’re talking into a wall, and that nothing is getting through. and more likely than not, it’s usually us who are not putting things into context before explaining. it usually has nothing to do with the other persons’ comprehension.

when you hear yourself saying: ‘but you don’t understand!’ that’s your queue. stop. think. say: ‘let me explain it this way’ then put things in the right context for the other person, and then get your idea across.

update: for greater insights, and how to handle some specific situations, please read the comments.

yours, will.

twitter: @williamchoukeir

p.s. closely related and soon: how you always sabotage your conversation with this one habit AND how do you put things into context


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9 Responses to the destructive power of ‘but you don’t understand!’ and what to use instead? — COM102

  1. Hanane Kai says:

    this happens with me a lot (talking as the person saying ‘but you don’t understand’ to people 😉 and i only realize it when the conversation is’s because when i’m talking to someone, it’s so hard to stop and think. and this is why sometimes i prefer to chat with people online, because i can eliminate reactions (useless ones) and stop and think.ahmad, my friend does this even when talking to people. sometimes he doesn’t reacts, he stops, and says: wait. i am processing… he thinks and then he answers :)thank you william, and ahmad for inspiring me. i think i will practice ahmad’s method.

  2. Anonymous says:

    haha! yeah i love ahmad’s "processing".i have to admit i’ve used it on more than one occasion :-)what’s even more important, is that after processing, the very first thing you have to do is to put things into perspective. or else the cycle continues, and you’ll keep saying processing every once in a while, and the other person doesn’t understand a thing 🙂

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is a really good practice for teachers in schools too! I have a class to teach today at 1:45. I will try to use this method. 🙂 will let you know what happens. Thanks will.

  4. Anonymous says:

    It’s hard, especially when you are a person who likes to get the message through quickly, and briefly… I sometimes find myself saying one word to explain a whole idea, and gets frustrated when I am not "understood"…It’s usually when I myself don’t understand myself either 🙂

  5. Anonymous says:

    i had this problem for such a long time patsy. i was always impatient when it came to explaining things to people. i always wished they were in my head and i didn’t have to say a thing. and i had to say something, i always searched in my head for a one word message to explain the idea; never finding one (obviously), i would leave everyone disappointed and frustrated.for me hanane was a savior. because i had to interact with her and get loads of ideas across every day. and if these ideas don’t go across, then work doesn’t move forward. so i couldn’t ignore the problem. soon enough, i started taking my time to put things into context and making sure everything is clear.we now have a chunk set aside, very first thing of every morning, just to explain where we are, and where were going to be by the end of the day. a good hour to just get ideas across, and make sure everyone is on the same level.

  6. Ahmad Osman says:

    And *sometimes* (playing cynical), you have to open your arms and embrace the reality that some people are as intelligent as my arse and ought to be flagellated to death to save humanity from stupidity (goodness).But yeah, grosso modo, you ought to know better that Hanane (or anyone whom you know well enough to be intelligent) is not inherently incapable of understanding.

  7. Anonymous says:

    HAHAHA!! LOL (rofl) you’re killing me, ahmad. couldn’t stop laughing.

  8. Ahmad Osman says:

    Whooaaaaaaaaa I have just read the comments (generally I am commenting without reading the comments, only the entry) ya 3ayb el choum now I am feeling like the evil rabbit. Heck it but I am the evil rabbit.I tell you what. I guess that I will play the evil rabbit to the end, and I will insist that not everyone deserves the ‘processing’ treatment.But you know what? It feels really warm to be talked about this way.

  9. Anonymous says:

    "… not everyone deserves the ‘processing’ treatment." i love this! and i love u, ahmad.

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