Our brains are constantly looking for heuristics and shortcuts. We take in so much information every second that we need a fast and efficient way to make sense of the world around us. We use categories and stereotypes to help us understand what we see and what we’re experiencing. So we end up telling ourselves stories to explain phenomenon. Many times we’re correct, but sometimes these assumptions are wrong.
Can you think of a time you saw something that maybe you didn’t understand and made up an explanation or jumped to a conclusion?
I’m guilty of it, we all are. But the thing is, it can be damaging. Maybe a person was having a bad day and made one off comment and now you assume that the person is always rude. So now you’re doing the person a disservice by judging them based on one comment when in reality, they could be a super nice person.
There are so many reasons for a single action.
Having type 1 diabetes, I feel like I’m constantly defending myself against stereotypes and people’s assumptions.
“Do you want dessert?”
Why did I say no? There’s a million reasons why I may have said no. But because I have diabetes most people’s first assumption is it’s because I can’t or shouldn’t eat it. I can’t be too mad, that’s their brain trying to make sense of the situation. Besides close friends and family or people who know someone with T1d, when they hear “diabetes” they think sugar=bad. They’re not trying to be rude when they respond “Oh sorry, I forgot you can’t eat that.”
Cue deep breaths.
Most of the time, that’s not why I say no. Usually it’s because I’m trying to eat healthier and one way that I’ve chosen to do that is to cut down on sweets. Sometimes I say no because I’m too full. Or my stomach hurts. Or I don’t like that dessert. Or I just don’t want it. Occasionally it’s because my blood sugar is too high and I probably shouldn’t have it, but that’s the minority.
I’m in a facebook group for a fitness program and was reading a post about a woman who was out with friends and turned down alcohol since it’s not part of the nutrition plan and she’s trying really hard to stick to the plan. She posted how people assumed that because she wasn’t drinking that she must be pregnant.
And that guy who was distracted during your meeting. It’s not that he doesn’t care, maybe he has a lot going on at home that he’s trying to sort through.
All of this is to say, there are many reasons why people do what they do, why they say what they say. I’ve been trying to give people the benefit of the doubt and not jump to conclusions. I fight my brain’s tendency to make snap judgement and instead be open to alternative explanations. I know how annoying it can be to have people make assumptions about me, and so I try not to do it to others. I think this is something that everyone would benefit from if we all decided to second guess our snap judgments and assumptions.