I was reading a random article on one of those entertainment sites the other day, that’s just a bunch of list. I happened to stumble on a list of the most selfish acts people have seen from another human being. This wasn’t the first or last article I’ll likely ever see like this. In fact, people write about things like this all the time, they talk about how selfish another human being was, or just make assumptions basis on only what they see.
The problem with this line of thinking, writing, speaking is it only addresses one side of the story. Whenever I hear something I try and humanize the other side, by thinking about not what someone did that may have seemed selfish but, why they did it. Try to think about what I might not be seeing. I can’t fact check every story I read and it’s not always my business to ask people for more details, and it’s not always viable to get the other side. However, I try to remain neutral and think of the, what ifs.
I remember one day a coworker saw a teen girl and an old man sitting in a dining room. My coworker made the assumption. (As we often do basis on things we “know” and our own life experiences.) This coworker thought two things: A. That the old man was her grandfather. B. That was she was being rude by looking at her phone and ignoring him.
First, maybe he was her grandfather, maybe not. I’ve mistaken fathers for grandfathers. Caretakers for mothers before etc…These assumptions can be problematic, but assuming the basic natural of their relationship isn’t the real problem.
Secondly, there is the assumption of rudeness. Yes, people do frequently ignore other people by being on the phone, and yes it does seem rude but I try not to make assumptions. My response to my coworker was unexpected…
I understood how they could make that assumption, but I wasn’t going to assume myself. Maybe that wasn’t her grandfather, maybe it was and she didn’t know him well and was coping with shyness, maybe they had fought before coming there, maybe he was unkind to her in general, maybe they just really don’t get along and this was their best attempt to be civil in public. There could be any number of combinations of factors.
The thing is I don’t know them, and it’s not my place to make assumptions. Even if they were my friends or family, maybe there is something I don’t know, and I shouldn’t assume without asking.
Even if say, I know two people in a relationship and they split, I don’t assume to understand the whole of the situation based on one side, or sometimes even both sides, of a rather emotional situation. (I just try to be as kind and empathetic as possible.)
If I see two kids and one won’t share their food with other. I don’t assume it’s because the other is unkind. Maybe the other has an allergy, has already eaten where the kid eating now hasn’t in days, or because of some other factors unknown.
Personally, I’ve had my fair share of what I will call interesting conversations because I am willing to explore the what ifs, of the other side if it’s not my side, or even if I don’t agree with either side. (I’m always trying to find common ground.)
It is human to judge and make assumptions, it better to realize that we are not seeing the whole picture and understanding it as a whole. Even in the worse situations there maybe things we don’t see or understand.
My goal is to always assume, that I shouldn’t assume. That’s a hard goal, and hard lesson to learn.