Human nature is such, that when we witness or overhear a conversation, we instinctively make assumptions. We listen to what people said and how they behaved. So, we naturally draw our own conclusions thinking we have the information.
Yet, how often do we stop and consider there may be another perspective? That we may be missing some key facts vital to the story? That we may have misunderstood what the person actually said? Or there may be a reason why they behaved the way they did?
Sometimes, we don’t even realise we automatically put blinkers on and judge situations on what we see. We are so sure we have all the details and we stop questioning or looking for other reasons.
A couple of years ago, I heard an interesting story from a woman who told me how she learned a valuable lesson about misjudging people and jumping to conclusions. She was working in a pharmacy and on one cold wintery day, there were quite a few customers in the store waiting to have prescriptions filled.
On this particular day, a woman came into the shop, ran up to the counter and skipped the queue, claiming she needed to be served next. The lady working there instantly assumed the other woman was being rude. She told me she was about to tell the customer to get back in the line and wait like everyone else. However, in that one moment another colleague came over and said “I will look after this customer”. Although the worker said nothing, she admitted she felt the customer was getting unnecessary preferential treatment.
An hour later, when the store was quiet the two staff members got talking about the woman who skipped the queue. The lady asked her colleague why the customer was given special treatment and the other person explained that experience had taught them never to jump to conclusions.
Her colleague further explained, that when they looked at the customer, they saw panic rather than rudeness in her eyes. It turned out the lady had been in hospital all night with a sick child. She’d had no sleep and was on her way home. The customer needed to get necessary medicine on her way home. However, she had the sick child in the car, so she double-parked right outside the door because it would be quicker.
Naturally, anyone of us could criticise the customer and say she could have clarified she was in a hurry. We could say she should have asked someone else to pick up the prescription or even park the car properly and bring the child into the shop.
Hindsight is a great thing and it’s very easy for any of us to sit back and criticise others. Nevertheless, we need to remember she really was distressed, in a hurry and needed help. So, it was right to cut her a bit of slack.
I think the majority of people have good intentions. However, there may be times when any of us are under pressure and don’t always react the best way. I believe we need to learn to step back and realise there may be another side to the story which we are not always privy to. There may be other times we need to take a deep breath, be kind and patient. And there may be times when we could even learn from the other person by offering assistance - because some day it might be us that needs it.