NATASHA THOMAS: Challenging Conversation Corners — ‘You Don’t Know’

We’ve all got “stuff” that makes us passionate. Some of that “stuff” leads us to say (and do) horrible things to each other.

There’s a lot of “stuff” going on out there in the world this week that has lots of people saying (and doing) lots of things. I don’t want to talk about any of the “stuff.” Not in any particular detail at least.

I want to talk about the things we say to each other. One thing in particular: “You don’t know.”

I find the aforementioned phrase usually comes as part of a package deal like, “You don’t know what you’re talking about” or “You don’t know anything, so you don’t get to comment.”

Sometimes, that first statement is true. Sometimes, that person doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to hold an opinion on the subject. Or that further conversations on said subject wouldn’t be productive or worth having.

I take a lot of verbal abuse in my line of work — as a therapist, as an educator, as an activist. And that phrase makes up a lot of that abuse. People like to try and back me into a corner with “you don’t know.”

It’s almost as if for them, proving that I don’t know enough on a particular subject to satisfy them means their perspective is the right one. That the conversation is over because “I don’t know.”

But what if we looked at this phrase in a new light? What if “I don’t know” was followed with words like “but I’d like to” or “please help me understand!” Imagine what depths of previously undiscovered learning we might find, what fresh perspectives might awaken our compassion and lead to the betterment of all the negative “stuff” out there that otherwise threatens to make us into such crankier, lesser beings?

What would such a world even look like? I don’t know. … But I’d like to!

One thought on “NATASHA THOMAS: Challenging Conversation Corners — ‘You Don’t Know’”

  • Wendy April 28, 2015 at 8:46 am

    This actually came up in a discussion I was involved with yesterday. I said that in my view, the three most powerful words in the English language are “I don’t know,” provided they are followed with “But let me find out.” A variation of your “But I’d like to” or “Help me understand.” We have to be willing to admit that we don’t know, if we are ever to learn.


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