Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What is it you do not comprehend about the usage of the phrase "I understand"?

I am generally a pretty pleasant guy to be around at work, but I do admit that I can be a bit difficult sometimes when I am dealing with the regional head office and their business culture. Since quite a way back I have a pretty well developed allergy to overuse of business jargon and people who believe that "professionalism" means acting and dressing in a certain way without thinking about performance.

In Japan, there is very little use of English business jargon and the atmosphere is pretty relaxed with very few people putting up a facade of fake professionalism, so thankfully I am not very exposed to this source of allergy here in Japan.

Recently I participated in a marketing meeting involving a manager from the Hong Kong office regarding some of the ongoing initiatives. The guy is a really nice guy but throws a little too much jargon around and has this habit of saying "I understand" all the time. Also, he kept asking misdirected questions to which I did my best in explaining and he kept saying "I understand" just before launching into a follow up question that showed that he hadn't really understood at all what we were trying to tell him.

At one point I launched into an explanation, trying to explain something very difficult about the Japanese distribution system in a few sentences and just at the moment I had finished talking I realized that what I just said was completely incomprehensible and I finished with a lame "can you maybe get an idea at all with what I'm getting at here...?", to which, after a few seconds silence came a "I understand".
I have this nagging feeling that this guy hasn't really comprehended the meaning and proper usage of the phrase "I understand", but I'll be damned if I know how to explain it to him...


ThePenguin said...

I understand.

Me said...

The meaning of the phrase
"I understand."
Thank you Salaryman for the idea.

Mr. Salaryman said...

I am happy you have comprehended the meaning of "I understand" Penguin but I'll spare you the embarrassment of calling you on it.

Great that you could make something productive out of this pointless post Me! Japanese use of Wakarimashita is a story of it's own...

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