Thomas was a final year student of International Relations at the university, and he had a pretty good understanding of how nations interacted with each other.
One day, he paid a casual visit to his father’s construction company. And while waiting for his father to finish a meeting, he strolled to the security outbuilding, where a couple of guards and menial workers were having a conversation.
All the workers knew Thomas was boss’ son, and were always overly courteous to him. Though he was younger than the lot of them, they all addressed him as ‘sir’. Thomas thought the reverence shown him was inordinate, and somehow wished they wouldn’t be so cordial with him.
As he got to the security outbuilding, the men scampered to find him a chair. One of the guards quickly offered him his own chair. Thomas turned it down politely. But the man insisted, and positioned the chair about 3 yards away from the group. Thomas gave a polite bow and took the seat.
He felt like he had walked in on a private discussion because of the silence that followed. But the awkwardness only lasted a minute, as the men soon picked up their discussion. Thomas heaved a sigh of relief.
As the conversation continued, he grabbed his phone and started surfing the web, with the air of someone oblivious to what was being said around him. But he wasn’t oblivious. In fact, all his attention was focused on the conversation.
The men were talking about the war in Ukraine; a topic that greatly interested Thomas. Some of the men argued in support of Russia’s invasion, while the others argued against it. It was mainly a lay discussion, as majority of the men threw facts about with no substantial backing.
Thomas, who’d just written an academic paper on the topic, was incited to put in a word, especially when the men started comparing arsenal capabilities of the warring nations.
However, Thomas was caught between two considerations. On the one hand, he didn’t exactly feel at ease sitting there. It wasn’t because he had a lofty opinion of himself; on the contrary, Thomas was a modest fellow who never exalted himself.
The issue here was Thomas’ assumption that the group wouldn’t be receptive of his contribution. Somehow he was persuaded that the men would think him ostentatious if he should offer any opinion on the topic.
Other than being the boss’ child, Thomas was also the most literate person in the room. This latter point, Thomas didn’t really consider an advantage in itself; but he said to himself, surely they will think I have that advantage and am just showing off.
These thoughts crossed Thomas’ mind in an instant.
But his train of thought didn’t stop there. He assumed, on the other hand, that the men probably expected him to join the conversation; and that, by not contributing to the conversation, he deemed the group unworthy of his learned opinion.
Nevertheless, he still wouldn’t speak, because the assumptions clashed in his head, and he became struck with inertia.
It must be noted that Thomas conjured these assumptions out of thin air. It wasn’t as though the men showed any sign to justify his reservations. They just carried on with their conversation as casually as ever.
The assumer’s mind is a strange place, and it rarely ever reflects what’s real.
The problem, for Thomas, springs from his poor social skills. He finds it difficult to engage in conversations, and so hides his ineptness behind unfounded, and often conflicting, assumptions.
These assumptions are like a security blanket that help him justify his (often poor) decisions in social settings. While they may suffice in the present, he’s often left to rue the opportunities that pass him by as result of his blind suppositions.
Making assumptions is hardly ever productive. On the contrary, it only takes away the courage one needs to face reality and act accordingly.
In the above scenario, Thomas had absolutely no reason not to join the discussion. It wasn’t exactly an exclusive conversation. Also, Thomas had something meaningful to contribute. Therefore, he wasn’t doing anyone any good by restraining himself.
Perhaps it is right to take a minute and gather one’s wits in such situations, to avoid coming off as pretentious, and actually make sensible contributions. But we can see clearly that Thomas went beyond, and slipped into the pit of assumptions.