Humbled by Assumption

The best lessons learned in life are those that are taught through the experiences of failure, disappointment, and humiliation. So goes this little tale of enlightenment...

I was out in LA visiting friends and family and had rented a car. I was driving up the 405 ( a major freeway that heads south to north in California-somewhat close to the coast), and was listening to an old favorite radio station.The traffic was heavy (so I was a bit stressed) and  I needed to move one lane to the left. I did the normal check the left lane to see if it is clear before moving over routine, and then proceeded to move over, but right as I was switching lanes, I heard a quick toot of the horn and veered back into my lane.  I again looked over and the lane was still clear. Without hesitation or thought, I may have lifted my hand and done a gesture that I am less than proud of. The guy driving the car behind lifted his hands like “What’s going on? Why are you getting mad at me?”

I continued up the 405 and about 5 minutes later, I heard the identical quick toot of the horn. It was on the radio. (Note to all people visiting California- the radios have very realistic road sounds being produced while you are driving) This time I looked around to see if the other driver or anybody else who had been nearby 5 minutes ago was still around, because I was wanting to hide. I was mortified. I got it! I understood why he lifted his hands with a perplexed shrug. Of course he was confused…he never honked nor did he hear the honk.

Such a poignant reminder of how communication can go so wrong. People don’t always hear or see what you think they heard and saw. More often people hear or see what they want or what they are capable of hearing or seeing. Throw in some misinterpreted body language and it is no wonder that communication and understanding can go astray so often and so quickly.
Assuming is dangerous and apt to be wrong. It corrupts relationships and causes feelings of distrust, anger, rejection, and sadness.

Action steps: Think about a stressed or broken relationship that you have in your life right now. Think about why it is stressed or broken. Is it possible that assumptions got the best of you or the other person, and interfered with your happy relationship? Don’t let assumption steal a good friend from you!