Human Facets and the Natural Tendency to Fill in Blanks
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Tilt.
One of my colleagues Â is seriously Â pissed Â off at me right now.
She thinks Iâ€™ve been writing about her…I havenâ€™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 didnâ€™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 Â my Â knee Â hurt. Â She Â didnâ€™t Â know Â about Â the Â no-cell- phone Â meetings, Â the Â hike Â between Â buildings,Â Â or Â my kneeâ€”all she knew was that Iâ€™d left a soft drink in my cup holder yesterday morning and the shoddy paper cup had leaked into the coin bin.
Sheâ€™s just recently discovered Â my journals Â and websites and Â is Â discoveringÂ Â facetsÂ Â of me she never knew existed. No problem. Right? That should be a good thing, to know someone better?
Except that because she didnâ€™t know about these facetsâ€”and still doesnâ€™t understand that I have a life out of the office (what a concept, I know!)â€”she tries to fit these facets into spaces she already knows Â about…and Â theyâ€™re not fitting. Sheâ€™s having a hard time thinking that I have a life that doesnâ€™t involve her.
Thatâ€™s not being conceitedÂ on her partâ€”itâ€™s the only frame of reference she has for me.
So no, sheâ€™s not being arrogant when she thinks that way. Instead, itâ€™s an interesting human dynamic, and one I need to remember Â when Â dealing with other people and things I donâ€™t know about them. I need to remember not to assume the worst or to assume an ill intentionâ€”or that theyâ€™re paranoidâ€”simply because thereâ€™s something Â going on with them that I donâ€™t know. Whatâ€™s often going on with other people has nothing at all to do with me, so why should Â I think Â their Â conversations Â with Â others Â or their own breakthroughs have anything to do with me?
We all know Â each other in a certain context Â and if thereâ€™s a part of someone we donâ€™t know about, we try to fill in the blanks with what relates to us…sometimes Â in a not-so-good way…or we deny it exists.
In the case of my colleague, she read a journal entry about a Â situation among writers, not related whatsoever to the work that she and I have done together. She saw a similarity there that I didnâ€™t intend and Â that I still donâ€™t seeâ€”thereâ€™s something Â in her lifeÂ I donâ€™t Â know Â about but, without knowing, I struck a chord, a cacophonous one.
When I explain Â very Â briefly Â that Â I have Â a business situation where a contract has been breached, she throws up Â her Â hands Â and Â insists Â that Â nobodyâ€™s Â breaching Â any contracts with me and that I must be paranoid and that she hasnâ€™t breached any contracts. In our working environment, this is true, but outside of our working environment, Iâ€™mÂ dealing Â with some Â legal Â issues Â that Â are near resolution. This is a part of my life that she doesnâ€™t know about, except that Iâ€™ve been published. Because she hasnâ€™t been included in every facet of my life, to her it doesnâ€™t exist.
But then, no matter how close you are to someone else, even if youâ€™re married to them, do you ever really see all the facets? Thereâ€™s so much more to every person than meets Â the Â eyeâ€”good Â or badâ€”and Â if Â thereâ€™s Â a part Â of them, a facet, that we donâ€™t know exists or we havenâ€™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 distortedâ€”good Â or Â badâ€”and Â when Â we Â see Â facets Â we donâ€™t think belong there, because weâ€™re not Â accustomed to them, we think the real thing is the distortion.
Bottom line: thereâ€™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.