Home > rant > It’s not that I don’t understand you, it’s that you’re wrong

It’s not that I don’t understand you, it’s that you’re wrong

February 7, 2013

Dear …..,

I’ve been meaning to explain this to you. It took me a while to get what was happening in our interactions, so it’s only fair for me to explain it to you now that I get it.

Namely, every time we meet, you try to explain the same thing to me, even though I already understood it the first time – maybe even before meeting you.

You see, it’s not that I don’t understand you, it’s that you’re wrong.

You obviously think that anybody who doesn’t agree with you must not understand you (because what you actually think is that anyone who understands your impeccable logic must agree with you), but take it from me, I don’t agree with you. At all. And I’m not interested in you explaining your logic to me again. Next time you try to do that, I will stop you.

Mind you, I don’t have huge hope for this plan, because I’ve tried it before. I spent one conversation with you very carefully giving you supporting evidence that I understood your points. I even did things like encouragingly rephrasing what you were saying in my own words to convince you that I understood. Then, after that, I explained to you that in spite of that clarity, your conclusions still held no sway with me. None whatsoever! They were based on naive and obvious simplifications! We might as well agree to disagree!

And yet… yet you seemed to have forgotten that episode entirely by the time we next met.

So, actually, here’s what’s gonna happen, next time we meet. I’m going to avoid you, and if that doesn’t work, I’ll avoid talking to you, and if that is impossible, I will nod and smile. I don’t want to have to resort to nastiness, and although I believe in being direct and I’m no conflict avoider, there are certain conflicts one can’t resolve, and one of them is you.

Thanks,

Cathy

Categories: rant
  1. February 7, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Details?

  2. Jay
    February 7, 2013 at 9:56 am

    My sympathies!

  3. Dan L
    February 7, 2013 at 10:10 am

    This post should go in the Passive-Aggressive Hall of Fame.

    • February 7, 2013 at 10:11 am

      I’m not passive-aggressive. You can call me aggressive but not passive-aggressive.

      • majordomo
        February 7, 2013 at 7:01 pm

        No Cathy, you ARE passive-aggressive. If you were aggressive, you’d have addressed your rant directly to him using his real name. Your deliberate omission of his name is what warrants the “passive” prefix.

        • February 7, 2013 at 7:31 pm

          I see what you mean. But it’s not to a specific person, but rather a bunch of people who exhibit this behavior. Plus I wrote it to be generically useful for other people to use as well. Kind of a public service.

  4. February 7, 2013 at 10:17 am

    These sorts of endless discussions, such a waste of energy and working of those little grey cells. Therefore I want to be Hank Rearden, if only I could be as untroubled as he is in ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ But I can say, I have come a long way… nowadays I ask people to agree to disagree and never go down that path again.

    Just in case you are interested about my Hank Rearden story: http://www.bluemarkforme.com/?p=880

    Ciao, Fleur

    • Jay
      February 7, 2013 at 10:28 am

      A rather ironic comment, because I (along with most people older than 17) feel the exact same way to Cathy’s post here in every conversation I ever have with an objectivist.

  5. Artie Prendergast-Smith
    February 7, 2013 at 10:35 am

    I was expecting the last line to be:

    “…so in conclusion, I regretfully cannot recommend publication of your article in this journal.”

  6. February 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    …so you mean I there’s still a chance?

  7. Leon Kautsky
    February 7, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    This is not a good way to talk to your kids.

  8. CitizensArrest
    February 7, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    “And I’m not interested in you explaining your logic to me again.” EDIT: And I’m not interested in you explaining WHAT PASSES FOR logic IN YOUR ARGUMENT to me again.

    I have recently begun refusing to agree to disagree. I think that in cases like you describe, that validates a flawed argument by allowing a question to remain, by defaulting down to something being opinions rather than a discussion of the weight of facts and evidence.

    • Sally
      February 13, 2013 at 2:15 am

      It’s nauseating when someone pipes up with that sound bit “lets agree to disagree”.

      • February 13, 2013 at 6:09 am

        It’s not the first place I go, I only say that when I’m exasperated and the person isn’t actually interested in communicating but just keeps repeating their points.

  9. Aaron
    February 7, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Incidentally, as a math teacher, I’d like to point out that I hear the opposite of this a lot. If I had a nickel for every time a student said “It’s not that I understand you, it’s just that you must be right” . . .

  10. Dg
    February 7, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    Damn, that felt as good to read as I hope it felt for you to write. Thankyou.

  11. Clark Thornton
    February 7, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Way off topic (thought about writing Aunt Pythia instead): I read somewhere that you did number theory at Harvard, then was stuck in a post-doc at MIT, which had no number theorists. Did this setback discourage you from trying to prove the Riemann Hypothesis? I am confident that you have the talent to take a stab at it.

    Regards,
    Clark in Old Hickory, Tennessee

  12. novembertwentyeleven
    February 12, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    “…if that is impossible, I will nod and smile…”
    We had one of those meetings where the chair talked for about 15 minutes and repeated, again and again, her well-worn observations, suggestions with minus-suggestions – I mean that she said something then immediately minused it out as over the budget, silly, already tried out and it didn’t work, etc., “I wonder …” – basically verbal diarrhea.
    I practised my deep breathing and after a while I saw that a department head was saying, hmmmm…, hmmmm… hmmmm. No nodding and smiling though. And when the diarrhea stopped, the head said something that was not in the chair’s diarrhea, and I realized that the head had tolerated the chair and didn’t care for what the chair said.
    I will do as the head did from now on.

  13. Al
    February 14, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    I’ve never found any way to convince someone that their reasoning is wrong if their personality won’t allow it. I was in such a discussion recently and, when the guy started formalizing his argument with equations, I lost my temper. I’m not proud of it, but it was the last time I heard about that particular bit of logic, and that’s something.

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