to know or understand

Dolphin Sonar

Dolphin Sonar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I heard something thought-provoking today.  A professor asked his listeners if the understood the sonar that bats use to locate food or to find their way.   They said yes. 

So he asked again “You understand it?”  Again several answer “yes” that they understood  bat sonar. 

The professor rephrased his question, ” Do you mean you know about it, you know the facts of how it works.” 

Again his listeners shook their heads in agreement –   This is really important.  The professor goes on to explain that just because they may know the facts and details of something does mean that they understand it.  Some examples he gave were as follows.

Do you know about childbirth or do you understand it?  Do you know about divorce or do you understand how it is to experience it.  Do you know about autism or do you understand how it is to live in the world of autism?  Do you know about the process off addiction or do you understand what addiction is all about?  Do you know about co-dependency or do you understand it?

Understanding something seems to be a more intimate relationship with whatever it may be we are discussing.  I actually caught myself later saying to a patient I work with that I understood how he felt and I immediately apologised and said,” No, I can’t understand how you feel, I don’t have the experience to understand but I am listening and want to help you.  I have tools and information that may help you.”  It was interesting, the patient was able to calm down, to explain, to discuss with me his situation so I could be of more help.  He felt cared for and understood.

I have had the opportunity to work with MI (motivational interview).  It is wonderful to be able to help someone open up, explain how they feel and even be able to encourage them to make changes – changes that come from within them.  To assist someones discovery of what they want and need.  Change can be a very long process – even when we want the change.

So, to know or to understand.   Big difference!   


About mainbean

I graduated december 2014 from Bergströms a Counselor specialized in Co-dependency Therapy. I love to read, discuss and learn. I usually write every other weekend and hope to see how much I grow during this process.
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2 Responses to to know or understand

  1. workspousestory says:

    Food for thought, definitely! I rarely put it this way, but that is the reason why I sometimes feel incapacitated when talking to someone – how *could* I give advice if I’ve never experienced something? this distinction makes it clear and easier to explain, as well as to still offer that advice.


  2. Pingback: health care: Motivational Interviewing in Health Care: Helping Patients Change Behavior (Applications of Motivational Interviewing)

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