Everything We Assume Is Wrong

The Art Of Truly Understanding Others. Avoid pity pitfalls and selective disclosure.


8/21/20239 min read

gray monkey in bokeh photography
gray monkey in bokeh photography

Life has a funny way of proving us wrong, doesn't it?

One of the biggest lessons I've learned from the previous family drama is that our assumptions and perceptions about people are often misguided.

What we think we know can crumble like a poorly constructed sandcastle when we reconnect after years of silence.

Let's dive into the unpredictable nature of human character, the role reversals that can occur, and the fallacy of judging others based on outdated familiarity.

The Transformative Power of Time

Ever had that moment when you were utterly convinced you had someone all figured out, only to find out years down the road that you couldn't have been more wrong?

The person you once saw as the ultimate antagonist could have seamlessly transformed into an unexpected victim, or perhaps they've assumed the roles of both the wrongdoer and the suffering party, entangled in their own web of family complexities.

It's a pretty eye-opening realization, to be honest. That notion of truly "knowing" someone, even if they're part of your own kin, turns out to be pretty darn superficial when it comes to cracking the code of their real character.

We all have these folks in our lives who we believed we understood due to the sheer duration of our acquaintance or the family ties that bind us.

But guess what? They can still surprise us like nobody's business. Turns out, relying on past recollections as crystal balls for predicting the future is quite the risky game.

On my own journey, I got slapped with a rather abrupt wake-up call.

Someone I was certain I knew inside out, someone who had been a lifelong presence, went and made choices that I'd bet the house they'd never make.

The thing is: people change. They can morph subtly or undergo wild transformations, all thanks to the decisions they make or the environments they find themselves in.

It's kind of ignorant, when you think about it, to stubbornly clutch onto those outdated images when life's taken them miles away from the snapshots we hold dear.

So, to sum it up, time has this knack for revealing our notions of certainty and predictability?

Well, they're often not worth the paper they're written on.

Life's Quirky Dramas

You know how sometimes we get all worked up about something and think it's the end of the world? Well, turns out what's keeping us up at night might just be another person's everyday norm.

It's like, we might look at someone else's crazy rollercoaster life and be like, "Whoa, they must be living on the edge all the time!" But when we scratch the surface, we realize that the chaos we see is just their daily routine.

It's kind of funny, actually. There are these folks who seem to thrive on drama – they're like, "Bring on the wild stuff!" They actively seek out intense situations, maybe without even realizing it, and then wonder why their life is always in turmoil.

And guess what? They keep attracting the same kind of people and the same crazy situations over and over again.

Meanwhile, for people like us who prefer a bit more calm, their way of life seems totally incomprehensible. They might even say they want the peace we have, but their actions don't really match up.

What about our chill and tranquility?

Well, that's like a foreign land to those drama aficionados. They're so used to the ups and downs, they might even call it their 'passion'.

It's just a reminder that sometimes, people can be their own biggest challenge, living lives that totally throw us for a loop.

It's just a little reminder that sometimes, people are their own wild ride, living lives that can make your head spin. Oh, and don't assume you need to swoop in to solve their problems or rescue them from their dramas.

You know why?

Because more often than not, they're kind of soaking in it. Offering help might even leave yourself disappointed, as they might secretly not want their issues solved at all.

The desire to help others often leads us to believe that we know what's best for them. However, what we perceive as their ideal solution may not align with their true desires.

It's a hard pill to swallow when we realize that our well-intentioned actions may not be what they truly wanted or needed.

It's a reminder to approach situations with empathy, open-mindedness, and a willingness to listen. Only then can we truly understand and support others on their unique journeys.

Navigating the Pity Trap

Hey, have you ever been hit with that wave of empathy and pity when someone shares their tough times? It's like an automatic reaction, right?

But here's the deal: it's important to handle their situation with care and not let yourself get sucked into the pity trap.

There's this Chinese saying that really sums it up: "可怜之人必有可恨之处". It's like saying even the pitiable folks have their own baggage, their own messiness.

Of course, there are exceptions. Like, it doesn't apply to those born with challenges or victims of accidents caused by others' recklessness. But, man, I've found it holds true for a lot of other supposedly pitiful cases.

Like, take that elderly man struggling to get by. You might feel bad for him, but then you learn he ditched his own kids back in the day. Or that homeless lady – she might have gambled away everything, even her kids' well-being.

And let me tell you a personal story. I thought this friend was going through hell because their spouse never trusted them. Turns out, they had a history of not being the most faithful partner. Talk about a plot twist!

So here's the trick: it's all about listening to their story from every angle, soaking in different perspectives and sources.

That's how we build a complete picture of their situation. It stops us from making narrow judgments based only on the info they lay out in front of us.

The Veil of Selective Disclosure

You know when someone opens up to us, it feels like they're baring their soul, right? Well, here's the thing: more often than not, they're actually playing the "selective disclosure" game.

They spill only the beans they want us to see, usually hoping for a pat on the back and some validation for their point of view. And hey, that's human nature for you.

But here's where it gets interesting: we need to be aware of this tendency and realize that there's often a lot more to their story than what's on the surface.

You might think someone's a total victim, only to find out they're the ones pulling the strings.

It's tricky, really, because they might genuinely believe they're going through the wringer while dodging any responsibility for their own actions and choices that landed them in this pickle.

We've all got our masterclass in putting on masks. It's like we've got this curated version of ourselves that we show the world, hiding our quirks and imperfections under a shiny exterior.

But the truth is that projection folks put out might be miles away from what's really going on inside. Underneath the confident front, there could be a pile of insecurities and battles that we're clueless about.

Recognizing this can give birth to some top-notch empathy. It reminds us to look past the surface, to acknowledge that there's more to every story and every person than meets the eye.

The "I Want to Die" Paradox

Ever run into those folks who dramatically exclaim, "I want to die!" but then seem surprisingly committed to staying alive? It's like their words and actions are on different wavelengths.

You know the ones – they might put on quite a show, resorting to theatrical cries for attention. Yet, when you dig beneath the surface, it's clear they've got a solid self-preservation instinct at play.

Those cries for help often turn into fleeting acts of performance, with only a few drops of spilled blood to show for it.

I'll never forget this one person who took things to a whole new level. They grabbed a kiddie fruit knife and put on this elaborate performance of slicing their veins – a real showstopper.

And if that wasn't enough, they'd even take screenshots to send around, trying to freak people out with the whole wrist mark thing (which is more of a dent than a cut). It was like they were going for an Academy Award in drama.

Then there's this memory from back in my secondary school days. There was this guy in Year 3 who was dead set on jumping off our school roof because his girlfriend broke up with him.

So, there he was, perched up there for what felt like ages. But you know what happened? Reality hit him like a ton of bricks.

Taking his own life turned out to be way harder than he thought. And to make matters worse, he probably felt like a bit of a loser for making such a big spectacle and then backing out.

Long story short, no leaps were taken, but we did get to skedaddle out of school early because of his attempt. Bless his heart, though – life can throw some wild curveballs.

These are the kind of folks who thrive on dramatic gestures, using them to reel in attention and manipulate others into doing their bidding.

And just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that every person struggling with thoughts of suicide falls into this category. But, let's face it, many do.

It's a real eye-opener, a reminder that what you see on the surface might be a far cry from what's really going on. Sometimes, our perceptions of others' struggles need a closer, more discerning look.

Do everything you can to learn more about how to handle chronically suicidal person, find professional to help but ultimately avoid taking up the responsibility for their decision to commit suicide.

Giving in to them doesn’t fix anything and will only cause stress and resentment to you.

Interventions To Understand Better

yarn on fence
yarn on fence

Here I will share some strategies that can help you avoid making wrong assumptions and unnecessary disappointment for yourself.

The Power of Empathetic Listening:

You know, to really get where someone's coming from, we've got to dig into empathetic listening. It's not just about hearing their words – it's about diving into the emotions, motivations, and all those things they might not spell out.

When we're tuned in and considering all sides of the story, it's like our perspective expands.

Suddenly, we start getting why they're in their current situation, often because of choices they've made along the way.

Embracing the Tangled Webs of Nuance and Complexity:

Life? Well, it's like a Picasso painting – rarely just black and white. People's actions and choices are like this intricate puzzle with layers of complexity.

So, when we acknowledge that everyone's got these layers, we can skip the quick judgments and start appreciating the richness of their lives.

It's a gentle nudge reminding us that truly understanding someone means being patient, open-minded, and ready to step into different shoes.

The Journey of Self-Reflection:

Now, while we're busy getting into others' heads, we've got to make a pit stop in our own minds too.

Self-reflection is like a mirror that shows us our biases, assumptions, and spots that need some work.

Constantly questioning our own viewpoints gives us some serious growth points. It's like a backstage pass to becoming more understanding when we're dealing with others.

Respecting Their Choices:

Look, empathy's cool, but here's the kicker: we can't forget that everyone's got their own agency.

Even when life throws lemons at them, they're still the ones in control of their lemonade recipe.

Sure, we're there to support and understand, but it's important not to play superhero. Recognizing their ability to steer their own ship shows we respect their choices and autonomy.

So, next time someone's talking, remember – it's not just about hearing words.

It's about peeling back layers, embracing the messiness of life, taking a hard look in the mirror, and respecting their journey, choices, and ability to navigate the twists and turns.


And there you have it, folks – the power of empathetic listening laid bare. It's like peeling back layers to uncover the real story behind every voice, every emotion, and every choice.

So, as we wrap up this journey, remember that the world often spins too fast, and we're caught up in our own whirlwinds. But when we pause, really tune in, and practice empathetic listening, it's like opening a door to a whole new dimension of understanding.

It's about realizing that everyone's got their own movie playing, with a plotline filled with twists and turns we might not even guess. Empathetic listening is our ticket to seeing beyond the previews and into the full feature presentation of someone's life.

As we venture forth, let's keep this in mind: empathy isn't just a warm-and-fuzzy feeling. It's a skill, an art, and a way of connecting that reshapes how we perceive others.

So, let's listen, let's ask questions, and let's truly try to understand.

Because when we do, we're not just hearing words – we're capturing emotions, unraveling motivations, and stepping into someone else's shoes.

And in a world that sometimes seems divided, this practice has the power to bridge gaps, build bridges, and forge connections that remind us of our shared humanity.

So, as we go on our way, let's take a moment to tune in, to really listen. It's like giving someone a piece of your time, your attention, and your understanding. And in a world that's sometimes a bit too loud, a little bit of listening can go a long, long way.

With love,