Your Assumptions Are Causing Stress!
©2015 Kebba Buckley Button, MS, OM. World Rights Reserved.
Assumptions cause all kinds of stress. The challenge is: we don’t often realize when we’re making assumptions. It is the challenge you cannot see.
People love to wonder about people, so they speculate and share their thoughts with others. And gossip is born! But what if their guesses about you are wrong? And what if your guesses about them are wrong? When I was in engineering management, I worked with mainly men. Gradually, I realized they were frequently wondering about me and imagining traits I might have.
The most colorful of the stories about me were the opposite-quality stories: they said I was a wanton woman who slept around liberally, and they also said I was a cold woman who would never stoop to date a man. Neither was true. But, given that all of my colleagues were married, and given the level of gossip, I certainly never dated within the organization. I was simply a nice lady whose private life was … private. I was grossly embarrassed when I realized the detail in which my colleagues were talking about my social and sexual life, and it took me years to get over it. What if my colleagues had simply asked me about my life, rather than assuming? How might our workdays have been different?
I’m just trying to get rid of all the mystery surrounding me and let people see what I’m thinking. So they can understand me and stop assuming things about me.
— JULIANA HATFIELD
Think about how quickly you mentally build a profile for people when you first meet them. It is said that we form our impressions of people within the first four seconds of meeting them. Some of our first thoughts can be useful. However, are you able to keep your initial observations in the Draft Folder? Can you leave them as “maybes” until you get a chance to know the person better?
A friend told me about an embarrassing incident that happened to her, because of someone else’s assumptions about her. My friend was over 50, in a successful career teaching in New York City, when she led her class on an afternoon field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was a Wednesday, which was Free Day at the museum, with entry payment optional. My friend had decided to dress comfortably that day. She was wearing no makeup, with clothes she thought were respectably casual.
As my friend arrived at the entry turnstile and lifted her hand to put some dollars in the slot, a young hand shot out in a gesture of “wait!” My friend looked up to see an anxious, fashionable young woman, a museum employee, urgently and caringly advising her that she didn’t need to pay. The employee assumed my friend was very poor and that paying would be a hardship for her. My friend was humiliated. However, she assured the employee that she was comfortable making a donation. In telling me this story years later, my friend said she hadn’t realized how old her clothes looked, and she was clearly still embarrassed. She has since retooled her Casual Day look.
What other assumptions do people make about us, based on how we look? Actress Stacey Dash has said, “I came across some awful characters when I got some kind of status and came to Hollywood. Then you have directors trying to sleep with you, assuming that you will do things because of the way you dress.”
So let’s all try to keep an eye on what we imagine and assume about people. If you’re disturbed by someone’s behavior, have you actually talked with them about it? Do you really know what’s going on? When you are frustrated by a situation, try writing down what you actually know, what you guess, and what came from rumors. Eliminate the conjecture for a clearer picture, and try starting fresh. Assumptions can create burdens you don’t need – carrying them or not is a choice that’s up to you.
Kebba Buckley Button is a stress management expert. She also has a natural healing practice and is an ordained minister. She is the author of the award-winning book, Discover the Secret Energized You, plus the 2013 book, Peace Within: Your Peaceful Inner Core, Second Edition. Her newest book is Sacred Meditation: Embracing the Divine. Both Sacred Meditation and Peace Within are available through her office. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org. For an appointment or to ask Kebba to speak for your group: email@example.com.