Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What is Understanding?

I read a blog today that gave me an idea... It made me think "What does it mean to Understand". By that I mean to understand an individual's experience of being in the world. We all have commonalities such as having disabilities or siblings or friends. But you can't understand what it's like to get in a fight with my sister even though you have your own. You can't understand what it's like to navigate the world in a wheelchair even though you have mobility problems. So why are people so quick to say "I understand exactly what you mean". Do you? Do you really? 

There is in fact a lot of stuff you simply cannot understand from my experience. If you have a family member or friend who has a disability, you might understand some of it from a third party point of view. You will never personally understand what it's like to wait for handibus all day, or constantly repeat yourself for others, or deal with all the stares. So why bother lying to both of us with the statement "I understand how you feel". Even if you have Cerebral Palsy and find yourself in a wheelchair, it's still not exactly the same experience I'm having. 

The statement "I understand how you feel" often comes from a well intended place, a person is often trying to be empathetic/ compassionate. But it's terribly unnecessary and will never be a true statement. In fact, it can sometimes feel belittling to the person on the receiving end. So let's try to erase that statement from our vocabulary.