Years ago, one of my dearest friends told me a story that has stayed with me to this day. It was both horrifying and funny (I hope you like a bit of dark humor). And, it all started with a presumption.
To understand this story, you must first know that my friend is the absolute sweetest, most understanding man. He has dedicated his life to caring for people with intellectual disabilities. We are talking about a man with the heart of gold. But, like the rest of us mortals, even he has things that really bother him. And one of those things is when people use speaker-phone. He’s in his seventies now, and back when he told me this story, the widespread use of cellphones was not what it is today.
On the fateful day of this story, he received yet another call from a woman who was talking on speaker-phone! And, you probably know where this is going. He let her know how he felt about it!
He described how hard he has to strain to hear and worse that he has to press the receiver to his ear with such force that he gets a headache by the end of the call. He went on to accuse her of being inconsiderate to put him on speaker phone when she could just as easily pick up the phone!
“I would love to pick up the phone,” she replied, “But I am a quadripeligic”
My friend, my sweet darling friend, stopped breathing and felt his stomach turn inside out. There were several long, silent moments.
When he told me this story, my jaw dropped. I felt compassion for everyone involved. But, what really made an impression on me is what havoc presumptions can wreak.
When we make presumptions about the other, we don’t take the time to ask questions first. And, we run the huge risk of grossly misunderstanding. We also miss out on the wonder and uniqueness of the other. When we bring our history with us and indiscriminately splatter paint here and there, coloring our present so that it looks much like our past, we miss so much!
Presumptions can cause fires in our relationships, they can rip us off from learning, and they keep us self-righteous instead of curious.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you hanging here...you must be thinking, what did he say to her!? Luckily, she did have a sense of humor...once he explained that he would have to to get off the phone to book a session with his therapist immediately.