It is common for people to use the word understand as a replacement for agree.  Understanding is a word that has developed a flexibility that allows politicians, public figures, and long suffering family members forced together at the holidays to get away with intricate dance of avoiding agreement with someone or something, curtailing further discussion, while simultaneously moving towards something they actually want whether that be nuclear disarmament or more pie.  “I understand” has become something one says while edging sideways away from the conversation.

What can be confusing is when people use understanding in order to force agreement.  It can seem as if there is an argument is going on, as if there is something unresolved, as if there is something that needs to be done when a person comes up and repeatedly argues their point asking if the other understands.  I’ve been in these conversations and I recognize them quickly now because I find myself asking “Am I missing something?…Is there some fact that I’m not getting?….Am I not indicating that I’m following everything?….Ah….They aren’t actually questioning my reasoning abilities.  They want me to agree.”  Once I can see that agreement is what they are looking for I can cut the conversation off and move on.  Several points in my life I’ve ended the conversation by pointing out that I do understand, I just don’t agree.  And the two things are very different.  One doesn’t necessarily lead to another.  Very few things in this world are self-evident and even when they might be we end up needing to state them anyway, hence the US Declaration of Independence.

So watch for the times when people substitute the goal of understanding for agreement.  In those cases the people they are trying to get to “understand” may or may not actually understand the situation, but they more than likely do understand the motivations of the person speaking and at the minimum find it annoying.  Because someone focused on getting someone’s “understanding” cannot focus on anything else and so has no ability to accept, connect, or respect others and pushes them away as fast and as hard as they try to get them in their corner.  And any victory won this way is fleeting because it’s false.  Agreement via coercion or apathy isn’t agreement at all.