Countless occasions have come and passed without getting proper attention. They arise, things transpire, and yet we are missing some things… there are fundamental understandings. Frequently people make basic assumptions about shared knowledge or experience between us. They think they have fully assessed a situation and all of its ramifications. For whatever reason people believe they know how to correctly interpret the motivations of others. Largely things happen and move on because they are fine, and of course technically it all turns out in the end.
The trouble with too many assumptions and heavy conjecture on our part, is an overwhelming lack of evidence that is more than just a few seeds of doubt. Too often by far people take something and run with it, despite the fact that they’re wrong. They’ve miscalculated somewhere, be it people’s intentions, or their plans for the future, someone’s background or what they value.
As much as we all must at some point decide, and move on with our own actions regardless, our initial assessment should not stand alone if we have the opportunity to confirm it. Treating someone as if we know for sure what they mean, or how they feel is pretty presumptuous. Regardless of how much communication you have engaged in before, this time could very well be different. And if you confirm all the suspicions you had built up to now, there’s certainly no harm in gaining some surety of it.
It’s actually quite often we’ve gotten something wrong in the course of a series of happenings. Things move quickly, with lots of moving pieces, and it’s hard to keep track of everything. People forget, misconstrue or jump to conclusions. Perhaps we missed part, heard wrong, or simply didn’t understand one another. Giving others the benefit of the doubt should be our default bare minimum of courtesy.
Asking a few clarifying questions is the best way to go, but sometimes that still leads to strife. People often assume that type of question to mean we don’t agree with their assertion, or that we’re questioning their right to assert it. The unfortunate part about that is the fact that it tends to come from a little shame around what they’ve been saying or doing. People can’t stand getting caught and would rather get away with everything. Putting a fine point on exactly what they said can be really uncomfortable. But if they said or did it in the first place, shouldn’t it bear repeating so we can all be clear?
Why wouldn’t people clarify before not just assuming the worst, but acting on that feeling as if it were true? A few simple questions or reflective statements to assure we’re on the same page goes quite a long way towards mutual understanding. But I think that’s where I can get caught up sometimes, because I always come into communication wanting to make sure we all understand each other. It seems to me now, less and less a priority for people in conversation. They instead are just waiting for others to finish so they can get on with proclaiming what they feel.
They don’t want to make sure and be thorough or complete, they want to throw caution to the wind at every turn. They think they are understood and that they understand already, they basically think that this entire talk was unnecessary. And I sit back trying to find a way to clue them in to the conversation before them. Because if we already understood each other so well, nobody would be sitting here saying all this stuff.
It’s not just that these little misunderstandings occur, because alone they’re not that terrifying. But laboring under misapprehensions can quickly escalate to affecting more important things. Making decisions like whether or not to stay with a partner, get a pet or have a baby… nothing of real value or consequence should be clouded by misunderstanding. No one should have to go on living with problems that could be resolved with a good dose of honesty.
I’ve watched people live their lives, year after year, going on information that’s incomplete or just plain wrong. It’s like watching Wuthering Heights play out before me, knowing it’s all just a case of someone who misconstrued something or someone, like a child’s game of “telephone”. I can’t fathom why they would continue to suffer and labor without doing anything to ease their discomfort. Especially if you’re unhappy with something someone said or did to you in particular.
We have all seen people feel so much better when what’s bothering them gets worked out and they get resolution. Anyone who would avoid achieving that greatness is being ruled by insecurity or fear, I would bet. I hope folks can find a way to see that feeling hurt for years is way worse than the alternative. An uncomfortable afternoon or even full week it might take to find closure with some direct action is entirely worth it. It’s also fundamentally more respectful of others and ourselves in this process.