Lesson #2: Putting it into practice

Posted on May 8, 2012


In my last post, I discussed how humbling it is for me to realize how many assumptions I make about others during a meditation retreat. Assumptions that are often totally off-base. Without direct communication, it’s easy to just start projecting one’s insecurities and fears onto other people.

In life, there are many times when we don’t directly communicate with another person {even when they’re in the same room}, leaving a lot of space onto which to assign a set of erroneous assumptions. I’ve noticed a few common themes that continuously invade my assumptions of others:

1. Person X probably thinks negatively of me.

2. Person X is doing just fine while I’m struggling.

3. Person X is a funny/serious/happy/sad/generous/selfish person {rather than accepting that people are a myriad of traits, often conflicting ones at different times}.

When you start to think of how many assumptions that you automatically assign to others, you’ll probably realize, like I did, that many times we react to our assumptions, rather than who other people really are in the moment. 

Take this recent event, for example. My husband and I went out to dinner with another couple. When it came time to order, my husband asked the waiter if a certain dish could be made without meat, as he’s a vegetarian.

When the waiter left, the husband of  this couple launches into a big speech. He tells my husband that he knows he should be doing more for the environment. That it’s a tragedy how many resources are used to feed livestock that are then slaughtered. He saw Food, Inc and was disgusted with so many of the meat-packing practices but he just can’t bring himself to give up steak. I think he even said something about how he admires Hindus for their religious aversion to eating meat. {By the way, the latter is not true. My husband’s family, who are practicing Hindus, eat meat}.

“Huh,” my husband replied, “I don’t eat meat because I don’t like the taste of it.”

See? We all do it all the time. We just assume, which, as you’ve heard, makes assess out of all of us.

I hope you’ll join me this week in my quest to quell my knee-jerk assumptions of others. Notice when you automatically assume the worst of someone else or their intentions without having clear evidence to back it up. Notice also, when you assign positive traits and intentions to someone who hasn’t yet proven that they deserve the credit. 

Let people show you who they are in the moment. Even then, accept that they may show you someone different in the near future.