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.