Why Bother To Inquire?
It is easy to assume and harder to inquire. We are better at jumping to conclusions than we are at uncovering facts. We may form hasty judgments about circumstances, and take for granted we understand someone. Yet, we may also be fooling ourselves. If we don’t want to presume we know, we will need to take the time and go one layer deeper. Only when we ask a question will we know for sure how someone is thinking. Until then, we are only guessing and have settled for assuming.
The Danger of Assuming
Assuming, supposing, presuming and speculating lead to wrong conclusions and wrong conclusions lead to big and little misunderstandings. For instance, my husband, who is more of an introvert than an extrovert, is not always an easy person to read. Recently, I discovered an erroneous idea I’ve always thought to be true about him, when in fact it was not. Whenever he was uninterested in holding up his end of a conversation, or when he sat alone in the living room staring out the window, I took it personally. “He is mad at me,” was my inevitable conclusion. One day, I bravely broached the topic of what I perceived to be a “bad” mood. If I was at fault about something, I wanted to know about it. But, I was not the problem. He had been suffering from pain incurred from work. Now I know; when he is in pain, he draws inward. Asking him a question or two opened the door to understanding him better. Simple, but not always easy.
Another instance of assuming occurred between myself and a coworker. The week before students return to school, teachers are always busy in the building. We unpack our classrooms and put things back on the shelves. Then we prepare for the night of the open house where teachers and parents meet and greet. The night of the open house, my coworker whose classroom is next to mine, scurried about attempting to put all the books that lined our shared hallway back into her room. When I offered to help, she gave me a firm, “no.” Going into my classroom to work, I heard two other people offer to help her. She accepted their help. I wondered what was wrong with me that she did not want my help? Unable to let it slide, I went out into the hall and privately asked her, “Why don’t you want my help?”
“I know you are busy,” she replied. I assured her that I would not have offered it if I had not meant it.
Assuming not only leads to misunderstandings, it also leads us to think that others think like us. My coworker may have been too busy, but I was not. Perhaps, in the future, she will accept my genuine offer.
Finally, the best case of assumption came from a new student in my class. At the end of the day as she was walking out the door she stopped and said, “I’d heard you were a mean teacher. But you’re not mean at all. You are nice and kinda funny.”
Why bother to inquire? It is worth inquiring for yourself about someone, then you will know the real story and the real person.