“My coworker is a slob. She says she cleans up after herself, but she doesn’t. I can tell. She has no respect for me, or for the job. She has a bad attitude. She can’t be trusted.”
Wow. I’d hate to work with someone like that! It must be so frustrating. That can’t be doing good things for your morale.
Here’s the problem with that assessment, though. It includes no fewer than 6 assumptions. The speaker is viewing those assumptions as fact. Let’s pull back the veil and look at the actual situation.
Your coworker isn’t more or less sloppy than the average person. You, in fact, are obsessive compulsive and hypervigilant. She does clean up after herself. It’s just that by the time you come along, several other people have been in the work area, and your coworker has no control over that. The state of the office is not a reflection of her respect or lack thereof. She actually loves the job and takes it very seriously. Her attitude is quite good, but she admittedly is on the defensive in your presence because her experience with you is that you are judgmental. She’s extremely trustworthy. (You might want to ask yourself if you find it possible to completely trust anyone.)
That kind of sheds a different light on the subject, doesn’t it? We all see the world through different lenses. We are the sum total of our past experiences. We all have our weaknesses and strengths.
Viewing assumptions as truths is life’s shorthand. It sure makes things go faster… but often in the wrong direction. As a coping mechanism, it does not serve us well. But it takes practice, being self-critical.
When is the last time you asked yourself what proof you had for a particular conclusion? How do you know people are thinking what you think they’re thinking? Have you asked? Mind reading is a heady power, but it’s the worst assumption of all.
Another assumption would be that I’m an expert at identifying my assumptions simply because I’m writing a post on the topic. On the contrary, I struggle with this concept on a daily basis. I’d like to think that I’m getting better at separating fact from fiction, but I suspect this will be a lifelong exercise in self-improvement, and one that’s entirely too important to pass over.