Human Facets and the Natural Tendency to Fill in Blanks

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Tilt.

One of my colleagues  is seriously  pissed  off at me right now.

The Long-Awaited Honest-to-God Secret to Being Happy

She thinks I’ve been writing about her…I haven’t but I am now, and so she knows the difference, yes, I know I should have cleaned out my car yesterday before picking her up for lunch but my early meetings ran late and I had to hike several blocks back to my car because she didn’t want to take her car and I was in a lousy mood because I twisted my knee last Thursday on some uneven sidewalk and  my  knee  hurt.  She  didn’t  know  about  the  no-cell- phone  meetings,  the  hike  between  buildings,   or  my knee—all she knew was that I’d left a soft drink in my cup holder yesterday morning and the shoddy paper cup had leaked into the coin bin.

She’s just recently discovered  my journals  and websites and  is  discovering   facets   of me she never knew existed. No problem. Right? That should be a good thing, to know someone better?

Except that because she didn’t know about these facets—and still doesn’t understand that I have a life out of the office (what a concept, I know!)—she tries to fit these facets into spaces she already knows  about…and  they’re not fitting. She’s having a hard time thinking that I have a life that doesn’t involve her.

That’s not being conceited  on her part—it’s the only frame of reference she has for me.

So no, she’s not being arrogant when she thinks that way. Instead, it’s an interesting human dynamic, and one I need to remember  when  dealing with other people and things I don’t know about them. I need to remember not to assume the worst or to assume an ill intention—or that they’re paranoid—simply because there’s something  going on with them that I don’t know. What’s often going on with other people has nothing at all to do with me, so why should  I think  their  conversations  with  others  or their own breakthroughs have anything to do with me?

We all know  each other in a certain context  and if there’s a part of someone we don’t know about, we try to fill in the blanks with what relates to us…sometimes  in a not-so-good way…or we deny it exists.

In the case of my colleague, she read a journal entry about a  situation among writers, not related whatsoever to the work that she and I have done together. She saw a similarity there that I didn’t intend and  that I still don’t see—there’s something  in her life  I don’t  know  about but, without knowing, I struck a chord, a cacophonous one.

When I explain  very  briefly  that  I have  a business situation where a contract has been breached, she throws up  her  hands  and  insists  that  nobody’s  breaching  any contracts with me and that I must be paranoid and that she hasn’t breached any contracts. In our working environment, this is true, but outside of our working environment, I’m  dealing  with some  legal  issues  that  are near resolution. This is a part of my life that she doesn’t know about, except that I’ve been published. Because she hasn’t been included in every facet of my life, to her it doesn’t exist.

But then, no matter how close you are to someone else, even if you’re married to them, do you ever really see all the facets? There’s so much more to every person than meets  the  eye—good  or bad—and  if  there’s  a part  of them, a facet, that we don’t know exists or we haven’t been able to define, we paint them not as a whole person, even if we think they are. The image we have of them is distorted—good  or  bad—and  when  we  see  facets  we don’t think belong there, because we’re not  accustomed to them, we think the real thing is the distortion.

Bottom line: there’s a lot that goes on with every per- son that the rest of us are not always conscious of but we naturally try to make sense of it in terms of ourselves.