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© 2014  Kebba Buckley Button.  World Rights Reserved.


Gossip, secrets, confidentiality


Have you ever caught yourself assuming something you have no way of knowing?  A lot of gossip comes from, well, nothing. It’s human nature to fill in the blanks when curious about something.  But we need to take care we are neither consumed by our natural curiosity nor creating problems for someone with our assumptions and chatter.  Today, I’m  using only stories from my  direct experience, so  we can make the least and smallest assumptions.


Here’s a relatively harmless example  of damage created by assumptions, at a business networking meeting.  To get the dynamics, you need to know that I only ever eat small meals.  This particular group always has a buffet, so it’s interesting to see what people choose to put on their plates.  However, normally, members never comment on what others are eating.  This one day, an unusually fine-boned, thin (as in, no one is thinner) and athletic member took a massive interest in my lunch plate.


She asked me loudly, “[I]s that all you’re going to eat?”  I hate becoming the center of attention for something so trivial, but I replied pleasantly, “[O]h, I never eat much.”  At the same moment, this woman finished taking the food she wanted, and turning out of the buffet line, she said  even more loudly, to the room,“[O]h!  She’s on a diet!!”  To make that statement, she had to be assuming that I felt overweight and wanted to lose pounds, and further that I was choosing food reduction as a means of losing pounds. I did not enjoy the flash realization that my “friend” thought I was overweight.  Nor did I enjoy her telling the entire group that I was overweight and had decided to diet, to lose weight.  Was she trying to embarrass me?  We’ll never know, and I don’t want to assume.


In part, I felt humiliated. I also saw this could escalate into a group discussion, as others started peering at my plate and considering what the thin woman was saying.  I matched the thin woman’s volume and said calmly to the room, “I’m not on a diet.  I never eat much.  Don’t make stuff up!”  Interestingly, the woman kept moving, without even looking at me again, let alone apologizing.

Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

~ Miguel Angel Ruiz


Occasionally, someone’s brain fills in blanks with assumptions about us, where there are no facts, or the facts are the complete opposite of the resulting assumptions.  In this kind of case, great harm can result.  One year, I went to a New Year’s Eve singles party with a group of single friends.  I drink almost no alcohol, because alcohol makes me tired.  So I had only had 2 sips of champagne at midnight, enjoying the ritual of welcoming in the New Year.  Otherwise, I drank water all evening; we also danced for hours.  I felt great.  One friend got so drunk that at 12:15 am, the rest of us that came together, all 6, walked her to her car and repeatedly offered, in different ways, to drive her home.


Oddly, the drunk friend kept inquiring if each of us was okay to drive.  She was clearly assuming we had all been drinking alcohol, since she had been.  In the course of our extended conversation, trying to convince her to let us drive her home, she turned her concern to me.  I replied that, no, I was fine, I had had only had 2 sips of champagne.  The next day, I received a 6-minute voicemail from the previous night’s drunk friend, condemning me for drinking so heavily!  In serious and angry tones, her rant let me know how low a human I was.  She said if I wanted to abuse my body by drinking heavily and hurting my brain and liver, that was one thing.  However, she said- now in passionately angry tones- that if I wanted to drink heavily like that and then drive, that was another thing and inexcusable behavior!  She said I was taking other people’s lives in my hands by drinking and driving.


I returned her call and tried to talk with her. But she was completely committed to the idea that I was the drunk and dangerous one.  I gave up my friendship with her.  Several years later, she decided I had gotten over my Problem and let me know she had forgiven me!  I still avoid her.  Her assumptions consumed our relationship.  The damage was done.


What do you believe about people and situations?  How much of your belief system about each friend or colleague is based on fact, and how much on imagination?  If you are disturbed by someone’s behavior, is your discomfort based on actual interaction?  Or is it based on your ideas about why they said and did what they said and did?  When you are frustrated by a situation, try writing down what you actually know, what you guess, and what came from rumors.  Eliminate the guessing for a clearer picture, and try starting fresh.  Also, say nothing unless you know it’s fact.  Will you let assuming consume you?  It’s up to you.


● Kebba Buckley Button is a stress management expert and the author of the award-winning book, Discover The Secret Energized You (http://tinyurl.com/b44v3br), plus the 2013 book, Peace Within:  Your Peaceful Inner Core, Second Edition (http://tinyurl.com/mqg3uvc).  She also has a natural healing practice and is an ordained minister.

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