“I Don’t Understand”
Sometimes I misunderstand a sentence like, “I don’t understand why people
Rhetorical questions have value. When fathers sing their daughters Libby Roderick’s “How could anyone ever tell you, you were anything less than beautiful?” they aren’t requesting an analysis of their daughters’ bullies’ motives. But there’s also value in thinking like a historian. The human community could use a little more curiosity and desire to comprehend.
7/2/2018 11:01:10 am
I suppose this varies depending on the motives of the person who said, "I don't understand ..." If they want a debate (curiously explore why), then it's OK to debate. If they don't want to debate (curiously try to explore why), then there's only frustration to ensue if you do more than nod or shrug.
I agree, and don't try to explain if I'm clear that's not what they're asking for. Where I get into trouble is where it's ambiguous. These days when I hear "How could ordinary Germans in the 1930s allow the Holocaust?" it's often true curiosity. "Who would mistreat an innocent child?" is rhetorical. "Why do some people vote against their interests?" is ambiguous to my ear. I'm trying to learn to ask, are you wondering or just expressing dismay?
7/2/2018 11:28:29 am
I was going to ask for an example, but then I realized I could think of one : ) Partially, this may be an example of a Myers-Briggs "thinking" vs "feeling" response. As an analytical person and an historian, you seek to provide answers. The person may be expressing how they feel using the phrases you mentioned. A person who was upset about a certain election result, for some it would be the US president, for others the new Mexican president, may express their dismay: I can't believe people would vote for.... : ) R http://fakeflamenco.com/blog
Good example, thanks. The thinking/feeling distinction is relevant. Curiously, I've had this misunderstanding more with people who tend toward the thinking end of the spectrum, perhaps because they're more apt to use the language and tone of analysis even to express an emotion. I test out as MB "F" because my decisions tend to be more feeling-based, but approach history and current affairs more analytically.
7/3/2018 10:31:20 am
That's an interesting note in the discussion, that both you and I are F's explaining history to T's at times. Methinks gender may also be involved?
Gender was a factor in the specific conversations I'm thinking of. I realize, too, that either interpretation of "I don't understand" (or its interrogative equivalents) can come from a T or F orientation. When I lean toward trying to understand why people think or act as they do, it isn't just detached intellectual curiosity. It also feels to me more respectful, less dismissive, than assuming they're just stupid or not worth understanding.
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.