Saturday, April 14, 2007

knowing versus understanding

‘I know you very well’… a very common statement uttered by most of us and this is often in relation to spouse, colleagues or superiors. But how often we say ‘ I understand you very well ’. The difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘ understanding’ often decides the if the relationship turn smooth or turbulent. This thought emerged while watching Hindi soap serial – where one of the protagonist marries her long time childhood friend hoping that he will be happy in life with the fact they know each other well, but in later he realizes that mutual knowing each other does not necessarily translate into mutual understanding.

Prabha Maushi is totally blind for last 15 years and she is completely at peace with human relationships around her. Not seeing human emotions and gestures while conversing makes her develop tremendous goodwill of the person she is interacting with . How often we undergo similar feeling when conversing with a person on net without knowing any physical attributes of a person.



Blogger LeeHng said...

i saw the "about me" section and am very intrigue by the Ralph Waldo quote you got ^^.

anyway regarding this post, i think "knowing & underdstanding" is good... but there is also 1 element i think is very much needed: Tolerance.

Many people out there knows & understand why there are racial & religious conflict... but at times, they just refuse to tolerate despite knowing.

atleast, thats what i think ^^

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Subbaraman Iyer said...

Sometimes “knowing” a person too well, places an impediment in “understanding” the person. When we try to “know” a person, we often evaluate a person and place them in a fixed /rigid mental map, because we can know something new, only within the framework of what we already know. And often it is only human and hence natural to presuppose that what we know to be right. Rarely to we investigate an issue, after considering that what we know could be wrong or flawed. I call this approach a static approach. It makes our lives simpler, but not necessarily right.

When we try to understand a person, or for that matter any subject, we process that area very differently. We engage multiple faculties — intellect, mind and often suspend our judgmental faculties. We also try to empathize with the person, and give allowances to factors that bear upon the subject (circumstances, cause and effect, compulsions, motives etc.) and also give necessary and appropriate weight to emotions, attitudes etc. Our zone of acceptance broadens considerably. It could make our lives complex sometimes, but trust me, it makes it richer.

Now, we often engage or sometimes over-engage in knowing the person, often at the risk of understanding them. And we often do it due to lack of awareness. Now, when we have less opportunity to indulge in knowing, (strangers for instance), some of us give vent to the “understanding faculty” and if reciprocated in the right spirit, there’s a rich tapestry of relationship that gets woven.

On the other axis, have you ever asked what’s the most painful angst that a person feels? And coming from years of counseling experience, a person wants to be understood, not just known. Thougn even modern psychology does not consider the “feeling to be understood” as a basic instinct, in all my years of experience of working/dealing with difficult people, the common pattern, why they choose to be difficult, and the common refrain that I hear is that they have not been “understood”. Till date, no one, I repeat no one has ever told me that he wished his spouse, or his parents or his kids 'knew' him. So, know the issue, but understand the person.

let me tell you that the area under the 2 axes represent the locus of acceptance. You would slowly realize that the area of the curve under the “knowing” faculty is much smaller than the area under the “understanding” faculty, because of the facts that I laid our in the preceding paras. And if you have to expand the number of friends, and keep long friendships, understanding them is more important than knowing.

12:22 AM  

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