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.
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.