I don’t understand where you’re coming from…

One of the many benefits of self-reflection is that I try to carefully listen to what people say and why they say it. Sometimes I wonder if people are even aware of what they are saying. And often I realize having a sense of humor is helpful.

One of my favorite examples is when someone is having an argument and says “I don’t understand where you are coming from.” What I realize is very often the person really doesn’t want to understand. They have their own perspective and have no interest in understanding the perspectives of others. In my opinion, saying ”I don’t understand” is actually somewhat ignorant. I immediately remind myself of my favorite St Francis’ quote: “I seek to understand before I am understood.” I want to truly understand what you think and why. I want to be respectful and treat you the way I would like to be treated (similar to the “Golden Rule”). If I take the time, I can understand your perspective, and then I can determine whether I agree or disagree.

So, I decided when someone says “I don’t understand where you are coming from,” my immediate response is: “Would you like to understand??? Because if you really would like to understand, I am happy to explain it to you.” Very often the response to my offer is total silence.

The lesson for me is simple: When someone says something that I don’t understand or agree with, I try to train myself to not say “I don’t understand,” but instead ask:

  • How did you come to that understanding?
  • Why do you believe that?
  • Can you recommend things I can read or people I can talk to so I can become more knowledgeable regarding your perspective?

One comment

  • Good post, as usual, Harry.

    An aligned resource you might recommend is Gary Morson’s and Morton Schapiro’s Minds Wide Shut: How the New Fundamentalisms Divide Us (https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691214917/minds-wide-shut).

    The book’s frontispiece quotation is: “For high hopes and noble causes, for faith without fanaticism, for understanding of views not shared.” (Mishkan T’Filah, adopted from O. Eugene Pickett’s prayer “For the Expanding Grandeur of Creation”)

    Best to you and Family Kraemer for this Labor Day Weekend.

    Peter (and Robin)

    Peter V. Baugher
    Baugher Dispute Resolution LLC
    130 North Garland Court – Suite 4101
    Chicago, IL 60602
    T: + 1 847-912-1716


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