I don’t understand

The three words which I find most difficult to say are, ‘I don’t understand.’ Today, I was doing a bit of programming to do with convolving histograms and the like, and I had to sort out the axes. I asked my supervisor, who tried to explain it to me.

“What you have to do is to count the bins for the joint histogram and then gabbada-gabbada hey. Right?” is what I heard.

I briefly thought about saying, “Uh, sure,” and then trying to figure it out on my own, as I compared my mental state to that of cute little birds flying around in circles, chirping obliviously.

But I didn’t say that. I said, “Nope, I don’t understand.”

“Okay,” he replied, “you’ve got the bins, and the means are the same, so once you’ve compared the vectors and bing-a-ling-a-ling, that should sort it.”

The birds continued circling.

“Sorry, I just don’t see why you have to do that.”

After a few more rounds of this and several minutes later, I finally exclaimed, “So basically what all of this means is that I have to add some bins either side of my convolved histogram?”


“Ah! I understand now!”

To my irrational self, saying ‘I don’t understand’ is a reflection on my lack of intelligence. It’s not the same as not knowing facts – that’s fine – but not understanding something that someone is trying to explain to you is different. And I suspect that it may be the same for other people, and that they also feign understanding when they don’t have it – I certainly do. But I’m trying to cut down on it.

3 Replies to “I don’t understand”

  1. No, saying that you do understand when you don’t is the most stupid thing. It get it with my guides sometimes when they say they understand because they want to please me, when really they’re very confused. Half an hour later, total mess.

  2. Yeah, but there is a point where it is better to say – “I think I understand” and then try it and play around for a bit and only when I can’t do it later to come back and ask for clarification. I find that’s how I learn better. It’s especially true of the way that law is taught – there’s no proper beginning – and it’s inevitable that you won’t understand at first – the only way that you will learn is not to have it explained over and over again – at that point you don’t have the vocabularly/skills/knowledge to understand (and the supervisor knows this – when they say do you understand what they are actually saying is – you don’t understand, and I know this but what I just said to you will make sense in 3 months time) and it’s only 3 months later that we have enough to piece together an understanding.

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