I don’t understand why people…

Have you ever heard yourself and/or someone else complaining about someone (or a group of people), saying, “I don’t understand how [people/persons] can [take action/make decision/etc].” There are two interesting things about this statement. First, it is saying you don’t/can’t empathize with this person in this situation. Second, there’s often a feeling of pride that goes along with it.

I make the argument that, if you can’t understand how someone made a decision, took an action, etc, this is a failure to empathize. To the extent that you want to understand the situation, this is a failure on your part. It’s not someone else’s responsibility to help you understand how they feel, and why they took a specific action. If you are someone who places value on understanding a situation fully, you can only do that through empathy. Empathy requires no sympathy and absolutely no agreement, it only requires that you can understand and feelings of another person in a meaningful way.

The more odd aspect of this statement is the sense of pride that is present. The subtext is, “I could never…, so I don’t understand…” This exposes a condescending attitude that others can perceive. You might keep in mind that while you are judging someone for doing something you’d never do, they could be doing the same to you. This hypocrisy is part of what keeps people divided into groups based on the rules of behavior they find acceptable.

In the end, people just don’t like to be judged. This is the single most significant reason why Donald Trump got elected.