The Curse of Certainty

May 3rd 2017

Ever said this kind of thing to yourself at work?


I know what they’re trying to do with this policy change. They’re just trying to screw me.


John didn’t say hello to me in the break room this morning. He’s obviously angry for what I said in the meeting yesterday.


Oh, Tina’s making promises she won’t keep. She’ll never do what she said she would.


The common thread in self-talk like this is that old demon, certainty. We’re so sure we know what’s happening. We think we know what someone else is thinking or what’s causing them to behave in specific ways. And we love to predict how other people will react.


The trouble is, we’re often wrong. We may think we know, but we really don’t. Maybe we get a little better at predicting things as we age because we have a bigger database of experience to draw from. But we still get it wrong, because, as a friend of mine says, “People are messy.” 


People are unpredictable. Their lives are complicated. They likely are not revealing the whole story. They may not know what drives their behavior, so how can we? 


So the next time you are completely sure you’re right about something, and ready to jump on the Train of Judgment, choose that very moment to pause. Take yourself and your ego out of your narrative, because whatever’s happening probably has little or nothing to do with you. 


Reassess. Observe. Wait. And then, with kindness and a genuine search for clarity at the root of your intent, ask.


communication, happiness, professional development


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