So Many Assume

I saw a sign at the coffee shop:

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Indeed. How often do we make an assumption of someone without knowing the truth of their experiences, struggles, and dreams?

Maybe you’re assuming something right now. Such as, “Isn’t she a writer? Doesn’t she know this isn’t proper English?” Yes. Yes, I do. But it’s the quote I saw at the coffee shop. If I change it, it’s not a quote. (And by the way, it’s attributed to Anonymous, so I didn’t fail to give someone credit. I simply don’t know who gets the credit. Maybe the person didn’t want to take credit because of the poor English usage. Oh, wait. There I go, assuming.)

Assuming helps us make sense of the world. It’s a useful tool for helping us categorize all the sensory information we come in contact with every day. But a tool can be misused. We can be wrong.

The disheveled child coming to school doesn’t necessarily have a neglectful parent. Some kids can look pretty rough by their own efforts in the short ride to school. And maybe a family member is in the hospital and someone who doesn’t have much experience with kids’ hair helped out in the middle-of-the-night crisis. And the clothes they threw in a bag were the dirty ones the kid threw into the clean clothes pile the day before (because we don’t always fold clothes when we take them out of the dryer). And the kid had an emotional meltdown when told to wash her face after the chocolately breakfast cereal mishap, and who wants to make a kid even more upset after the rough night she’s had, and…

You get the point. You don’t know the story of the couple at the grocery store, or the new co-worker, or the clerk at the convenience store. You just don’t know.

Of course, some assumptions help us help others. We reach out with a smile or a helpful hand or a question as to whether or not they want us to call for help, because their body language tells us something isn’t right. But we’re not always helpful because of our assumptions. Sometimes we’re judgmental.

We assume. We assume we know. But we don’t know.

And we can’t always know. We won’t always know. But we also don’t have to let our assumptions run wild. We need to keep them in check and refrain from sharing them except in situations that might help someone.

Otherwise, our assumptions will likely hurt someone, including ourselves.

I told you so.

imagesSaying “I told you so” might get your point across. It might prove you were right and someone else was wrong. It might give you some status…for a moment.

You might feel like you win (and someone else loses, and you’re okay with both). But in reality, “I told you so” is boasting. It drives a wedge between people.

So what if you told someone something and they have now learned the hard way? Isn’t learning the hard way enough? What if, instead of kicking them while they’re down, you reached out a hand of encouragement, helped them dust off, then offered to walk the next few steps together as they limp?

Of course, sometimes staying alongside someone isn’t the most healthy option for either you or the other person. You need to walk separate paths for a while. And if you’re walking separate paths, there’s still no need to say, “I told you so.”

Let them realize it in their own timing. It will stick longer, and you’ll maintain some respect for yourself, and potentially from the other person. After all, would you continually go to someone for advice and help if they constantly remind you how smart they are?

You don’t have all the answers. None of us do. Let’s be humble with what we do know, be willing to grow and change as we discover our misunderstandings, and respect others every step of the way.