Don’t kill empathy with assumptions

Last week I made an assumption.

I was walking through the city at lunch and, feeling frustrated at the foot traffic, humidity and smokers around, I caught myself thinking the worst of a situation.

Three young men were walking ahead of me. Given their backpacks and attire, they appeared to be tourists. Nothing out of the ordinary in Sydney, but one detail got my attention. All three of them were wearing headphones.

Immediately, I jumped to conclusions.
‘Wow, they must be having a great time if they can’t even talk to each other.’
‘How incredibly impersonal to not be engaging with your fellow travellers!’
‘Look at what technology is doing to human interaction these days. Pppfft!’

And then I stopped myself. I realised that these negative thoughts were doing nothing for myself or anybody else. And just as I thought that, another possible option popped into my head.

‘What if they are all simultaneously listening to a walking tour of our beautiful city?’ 

Headphone guys
With this, a whole world of positive thoughts opened up. I imagined the guys downloading a Sydney walking tour app together at breakfast, leaving the hostel to get to the starting point, and hitting ‘play’ at the same time. I imagined them learning about all the great sights in Sydney, and chatting about their day over a beer that evening. I imagined them emailing their families tomorrow and telling them about their awesome day. I didn’t have a clue if any of this was true, but merely imagining it eased the frown in my brow and replaced it with a curious smile instead.

As the saying goes, “don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

I have no clue if the guys were best friends since childhood, or if they met that morning. I don’t know with certainty if they were tourists, or foreign exchange students. And I definitely don’t know if they were listening to a walking tour, or to Beyoncé’s new album! I’ll never know the true story about the three guys with headphones, but it doesn’t matter.

When assumptions are made, they can destroy empathy and in turn, stagger enthusiasm and ideas. When we prompt ourselves to consider other options we can open our minds, improve our attitude and encourage creativity.

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2 thoughts on “Don’t kill empathy with assumptions

  1. caz says:

    I love it~! Such a better way to look at things and think about things in a positive light.. I think we all get so caught up and it’s a shame most of our immediate thoughts and assumptions tend to be negative.. but I think it’s a bad habit we all need to learn to let go of and try to re’teach ourselves to wonder with childlike naievity.. even if it’s just to put a smile on our own faces..

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