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It’s probably not personal, don’t assume

You walk down the street and one person that passes you by frowns while looking at you.

How will you react? What will you think?

You might start to wonder what about you made that person frown. What was their problem? Is there something wrong with my outfit?…

Jumping to conclusions is perhaps humanity’s favorite sport. We do it instinctively. Our brains like to form narratives that help us make sense of the world. So when that person frowns, we are given an impulse. Our brain looks at it and goes: how does this fit into my model of the world? And it comes up with an assumption or two that are presented to our consciousness on a silver platter, ready to go.

But often, these assumptions are not helpful.

Someone walking down the streets frowns at you, you assume that that person had some kind of problem with you and as you think that, you frown and look at another person passing you. They think you had a problem with them, they frown and look… So it goes. And if the last person in the chain frowns at a gang member, who knows what might follow.

We’re really good at assuming, but we also have the capacity to think and examine the assumptions. We should be especially careful when the assumption can negatively impact us, our relationships with other people, or the world in general.

Next time a person doesn’t reply to your email, or frowns at you, don’t assume it’s personal. You’ll be happier for it.