Sometimes it is hard to explain something to others but still they understand it. Sometimes, however, it is impossible to offer explanations so that the listeners can understand. However well one may explain the thing, there are cases that the listener does not get it.
It may be for various reasons. One may not have competence, background knowledge of the topic. One may not have enough intellectual capacity. There is another reason which this article is going to talk about: the teller and the listener are on different planes in terms of understanding of the topic.
In such a case, both the teller and the listener have some common understanding of the topic. So they can talk about it together. It seems many times the listener also understands what the teller talks about it. Often times the teller does not doubt or just assume that the listener understands the same with him/her. Therefore, this case could be the most common case of miscommunication.
The miscommunication is serious. The listener just assumes what he understands as what the teller communicates. He/she does not have any objection or question as he/she thinks he/she understands it. The teller, accepting what the listener implies or says that he/she understands it, assumes or admits that his/her understanding is communicated to the listener.
However, this misconception does not go for a long time. As the listener’s life unfolds what he/she understands, the teller gets noticed that something is wrong. The listener does not do or say what he/she would do or say if he/she had gotten understanding of what the teller communicates; also he/she does or says what he/she would not do or say if what the teller communicates is correctly understood.
Nevertheless, in this situation, unfortunately, while the teller notices the miscommunication, the listener cannot. Even as the teller points out misunderstanding to the listener, he/she does not get it. In his/her mind, the teller could be seen as awkward to accuse him/her falsely, saying “You did not understand what I taught you.” Sometimes, unfortunately, the listener accuses the teller falsely in ignorance as too strict or too critical of him/her. And there are not a few cases that the listener quits learning from the teller and leaves him/her. This is classic bad dynamic between the teachers and some of their students. Sadly, this kind of rebellion happens more when the teaching is about profound topics of life.
This case is the one that the planes of understanding on which the teller and the listener stand are different. It is like one is from Mars and the other is from Jupiter. They cannot communicate. Even though it seems they are communicating each other, actually they are not. They assume they are because they see superficial commonness between them, but the difference between their understanding is much bigger than it. The existential difference of understanding does not allow communication between them before they get on a same plane.
Through Sunday schools and VBSs, many know about Peter’s denial of Jesus. Peter was the one who thought he understood Jesus and his teaching. But he did something that he would have never done if he had understood correctly Jesus and his teaching: He denied Jesus three times and that even cursing him as he was being cruelly tortured before his eyes. Peter thought he was on the same plane with Jesus’ while he was not. Of course, Jesus knew it. But at the time, Jesus could not correct it because Peter was not ready for the lesson–he was puffed off in his ignorance.
As we think we understand something, we need to be careful not to be like Peter, mistaking that we are on a higher plane of understanding than that on which we actually stand. We need to remember it is ridiculous if someone, puffed off in ignorance, does stupid things.