For certain the way we think sometimes let's us down and makes us feel pretty silly. Some minor event takes place, a word spoken with a perceived tone; a sideways glance; a short emailed response that is considered to be curt rather than just short - so how rude! Actually, nothing at all takes place sometimes, we've just thought it has – because we have assumed!
We believe we've identified something that we see as a slight and we get rather overwrought and emotional about what we think was really meant. We may witness a behaviour and we immediately form an opinion, potentially negative, that we allow to fester and grow. These thoughts can really get hold of us and in most cases, the outcome is we've got it completely wrong. We’ve got anxious, cross or felt hurt for no other reason than we have made a certain assumption – so never assume.
In Stephen Covey's book 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People' he describes a situation where his immediate and natural reaction to children behaving rowdily on a subway changes from irritation to overwhelming compassion after a short exchange with the children's father. The assumption is that the children behaving in an inconsiderate and disruptive manner is because their father is too soft with them - he's just sitting there taking no notice, eyes closed. When Steven Covey draws the father's attention to the fact that he should possibly exercise some control over his children as they are annoying passengers - the father responds by apologising and agreeing. He explains they have all just come from the hospital, having received the news that his wife, their mother, has died and he was trying to come to terms with it. Whoosh – about turn! This is what Steven Covey refers to as the 'Paradigm Shift' - a 360 degree turn in your current mindset. We can get things horribly wrong based on our assumptions and for some reason we always tend to assume negatively.
I believe that if we think about things less emotionally it can have enormous benefits, maybe the short emailed response to our detailed email was purely lack of time on the part of the 'emailer.' Their short response could be due to their own particular style, or - on reflection – after re-examining our own email, we realise that though it might consist of three large detailed paragraphs, the point of the email was to ask three questions. So it is more than reasonable to get a response to it that states after the 'hi' yes, yes and yes!
My view therefore, is that we kick assuming into touch; it distorts our thinking and can create negative feelings of one form or another that could be completely unnecessary. These feelings could drain our positive energy levels and why chance that based on what could be our skewed view of a situation. Like Stephen Covey on the subway, we might feel rather upset that we made such a quick and incorrect judgement of a situation. Try to be less emotive – especially in the workplace –- try to be more patient and tolerant of how people deal with you. They might not be getting their communication quite right, but it is highly likely no harm is ever meant. Not many people make it their business to upset others.
At the end of the day, most people are only ever trying to do the best they can based on what they have experienced to-date. There is a time and place for firing up our emotions and because this can utilise a great deal of energy why not save it for the important and real matters in our lives, as it will be far better spent.