As an attorney, my career is devoted to collecting information, assessing the information, and reporting the information to my clients.
I try to predict how a jury will react to the information and whether they will find a plaintiff, his or her medical providers, and witnesses to be credible. (After all, just because I perceive the “star witness” to be a lying schmuck doesn’t mean a jury will see him that way.)
The devil’s in the details, and I try to turn over every rock so I don’t miss something important. The minutiae that accompany “lawyering” can be daunting, and I wrote an entire blog post about it here.
You would think I’d adopt this “information collecting” to my personal life.
I’ve done it all.
Take my husband, for instance. Last week, I got mad at him because of something I assumed without first bothering to collect all the information.
I came home from work on a Friday and was waiting for the babysitter to arrive so we could have a “date night” at an event that was on our calendar for months. Per our plan, which we specifically discussed, the sitter would arrive at 6, and we would be out the door by 7.
When I got home at 5:30, my 4-year-old had her towel and bathing suit in hand, and was adamant that she wanted to meet her friend, Katie, at the local swimming pool.
Do you mind if I take Arden to the pool to meet Katie? My husband asked.
I could feel my temperature begin to rise and my eyes were probably bloodshot.
I was trying not to lose my cool in front of the kids. I was trying not to disappoint Arden, who clearly had her heart set on meeting Katie at the pool. I didn’t want to break it to her that she’d have to stay home with a babysitter instead.
So now I was the “bad guy,” especially because my husband was seemingly asking for my permission, and I’d have to be the one to say no.
After all, it would be impossible for him to drive her all the way to the pool and be home on time for us to get to the event by 7, as we planned.
As we specifically discussed.
More than once!
My mind was racing.
Why would he offer to take her to the pool when he knew we had to leave our house by 7?
Why would he call Katie’s dad to make plans?
This whole thing was his stupid idea. It definitely was!
Why, why, why?
I was livid.
When we were alone in the kitchen, I gave my husband an awful look.
It was an accident, he explained. Katie’s dad called me when I was in the car with Arden. He didn’t know the speakerphone was on and invited us to meet them at the pool. Arden heard it and got excited and has been begging to go ever since. I haven’t been able to diffuse it.
I wanted to crawl under the counter and hide.
I felt bad.
I got unnecessarily worked up because I created a story in my mind without having all the facts.
I owed him an apology.
Let me tell you. This anecdote was tame. I’ve made worse assumptions in other facets of my life.
Then, I started thinking.
How many good relationships have we ruined, or opportunities have we missed because we didn’t have all the information?
How many times have we been annoyed with one of our friends or colleagues because we created a tale in our minds about something that never even happened, but convinced ourselves it was true?
How many times have you confronted someone about something (or were passively displeased with them) because you didn’t have all the facts? Or you had some “facts,” but those facts were wrong and incomplete?
How many times have we judged someone without knowing them, all because of something unsavory another person said that we assumed was true?
How many times have we heard of friends or, worse, family members go years without speaking because of misunderstandings and false assumptions?
How many times have we gotten a “weird vibe” from someone and assumed they didn’t like us when, likely, they were just shy or introverted and it’s not personal?
It’s so easy to think we know what’s happening inside someone else’s head.
I’ve learned lot of headaches and relationships can be saved by collecting all the facts.
In his popular book, The Four Agreements, Miguel Ruiz points out:
“If others tell us something, we make assumptions, and if they don’t tell us something, we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something that we don’t understand we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.”
Ruiz goes onto state that of the four agreements, this one is the most life transforming.
I can see that.
I’ve painted pictures in my head because I didn’t want to ask questions and appear confrontational, and because I thought there was only one plausable explanation for why something happened, which only caused stress and hurt feelings.
I’ve believed my own assumptions too dang many times.
What a waste of energy.
From this point forward, I’m going to adopt my work persona as being a “social sleuth” into my personal life. I’m not going to allow my incorrect perceptions to victimize me.
Today is the last day.