Making Assumptions Hides the Truth
Every once in a while, I sit on a gay, lesbian, and bisexual panel for a class at Indiana University–Bloomington. I have been doing these types of panels for at least fifteen years. I find them to be very educational. Additionally, I get to educate others about what it might be like to be a bisexual woman in America. I speak from my own perspective since that is the one I have lived and the one I know best. I don’t speak for other people who are bisexual or gay. Last week, both Kim and I had that incredible opportunity. This particular class was entitled Diversity in the Workplace. Kim and I sat on the panel with three men. All were younger than us. We like to say that we bring the historical perspective to these panels. The panel was moving along quite nicely. The panelists introduced themselves, stated where there were from, what their orientation is, and so on. Then, the students in the class were able to ask questions.
There was a young lady in the front row who described herself as gay, and she asked us, “How do I find or determine if a workplace is welcoming or supportive of people with different orientations?” There were a couple of men who gave their responses first. One of them told a story about going in for an interview into a man’s office where there were references to hunting around the room. He immediately drew the conclusion that this man would not be open or supportive to who he was as a person. He also gave the example that the man had something in his office that said “God Bless America.” Interestingly, as little as a year ago, I would have nodded and agreed with this person and understood his perspective. However, I am a different person today than I was in March 2016. Many things have changed. I find myself entertaining different perspectives. From this man’s story, it seemed that people who are members of a minority were making assumptions about another person based on trivial things. It struck me hard. It struck me as hypocritical. We do these panels because we (people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual) do not want other people to make grand assumptions about who we are. We want to educate people that while we may have one thing in common (being in the LGBT community), we are all individuals with individual character traits. But just as people overgeneralize us, we do the same to other people. We make assumptions based on what church people attend, where they eat, where they live, and what is hung up in their office.
This was an ah-ha moment for me. Certainly, I had met people in my life who if I just looked at their exterior, I would have guessed that they wouldn’t be accepting of me. In fact, some of these people have been some of the greatest support people to me and Kim.
In case you are wondering, on this day, I did speak up and challenged not only the people on the panel but hopefully the students to not make snap judgments about other people. Additionally, I stated that we in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender community can look at any situation as an opportunity to educate other people. I wish I would have taken it a step further and said that community in and of itself is a great place for all of us to educate each other about who we are as individuals. Because it became clear to me that day that it’s important for all of us as individuals to educate each other about who we are as individuals. Seizing the opportunity to educate or ask questions helps us to grow as people and stops us from making assumptions that keep us divided and from truly knowing one another. Through authentic communication, we all may surprise ourselves to discover that we may have more in common than we realize. In fact, we may have more in common than we have different. The point is that we simply don’t know other human beings and their beliefs or values unless we take the step to be curious and discover them. It’s too easy and lazy to make gross assumptions about anyone. As Don Miguel Ruiz states in The Four Agreements, “The problem with making assumptions is that we believe that they are the truth.” Quite simply, making assumptions allows us to live in a world where our assumptions become truth and the real truth is hidden because we all believe we know it already. Hence, we have built walls instead of bridges. Personally, I would much prefer to sit down with every new person I meet over a hot cup of tea and let him or her teach me all about him- or herself.
- Where in your life are you making assumptions?
- Where in your life would you like to become more curious about another person?
- What first step can you take to getting to know someone you don’t know?
I wanted to share that my life coaching practice is open to all and always has been. It has come to my attention that there is a whole new segment of people who are hurting. There are a good number of people who are having difficulty crossing the divide to have authentic conversations with friends and relatives who voted in a way that is different from themselves. Furthermore, there are a lot of people who voted for our current president and who are having a very difficult time with their choice. Some of these individuals have been treated poorly by those people who wanted a different outcome in the 2016 election. This saddens me. After all, the last thing we need to be doing right now is excluding people based on how they voted. If there is anything that I have discovered in the last year, it is that it has never been more crucial in our history to come together, listen to each other, learn about each other, and work together as a community. Therefore, I want to state here that my life coaching practice is open and a safe space to anyone out there, no matter who you voted for or what your struggle is. I will welcome you with open arms and receive your desire to heal as simply that. If you would like to be able to have a civil conversation with your father-in-law or an old friend, or you want to have a safe, nonjudgmental space to process your emotions, thoughts, and relationships, you can find solace here. As Thomas Frank said in his testimonial of Reverend William Barber’s book The Third Reconstruction, “When ordinary people see past their differences and come together, there is nothing on earth that can stop them.”
In the same vein as my message, I thought I would share with you an excellent, short TED Talk from Sally Kohn of Fox News entitled Let's try emotional correctness. Enjoy.
Until next time,
Safe Space Life Coaching