I AM responsible for your assumptions

JoJo SeptOne of the most popular sayings quoted in graphics posted on social media right now was popularized by the movie Rush Hour.  In this scene, LAPD Detective Carter on loan to the FBI is asked to babysit a police officer from China to keep him away from the kidnapping case they are trying to solve.  Inspector Lee, played by Jackie Chan, pretends not to speak English in order to get as much information out of Detective Carter as he can.  Later on, Lee lets it slip that he does speak English and Carter asks him why he made him believe otherwise.  Lee says, “I didn't say I didn't, you assumed I didn't…I'm not responsible for your assumptions.”  Oh, wasn’t he? This article is part of a series I’ll be writing on good sayings that don’t really ring true.  This saying is a myth perpetrated by a well-meaning, self-help enthusiasts meant to inspire and empower those who may have spent a lifetime trying to explain themselves.  However, this quote is a myth.  It isn’t true.  It doesn’t work.  So what’s the problem with it? Exodus 23:1 says, “Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.” So when you say something you know may be misinterpreted, you are raising a false report.  Further, when you knowingly and purposefully withhold setting the record straight, James 4:17 says you are sinning, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” There are three other things we need to consider about this myth:   1. First rule of communication It is the speaker’s job to be understood and not the listener’s job to figure it out.  So actually, it is your responsibility if your listener makes assumptions that are incorrect.  Only you know what you mean to say.  Only you can communicate what’s in your head to the listener.  And only you are responsible to make sure that your listener understands it the way in which you intended it. 2. Unintentional or not, misunderstandings can and should be avoided It’s bad enough when someone says something that another misinterprets because of an assumption, because it can lead those hearers to make decisions based on false information and damaged relationships.  How would you feel if a person, acting on an assumption they made from something you said, went on to cause themselves or others harm? However, unintentional misunderstanding aside, you are absolutely responsible if you notice someone is not getting what you are communicating.  It’s your job then, to correct them and not allow them to be confused or make an incorrect assumption, even if it is to your advantage as it was in the movie, Rush Hour. 3. The Spaghetti Test doesn’t work for communication To test if spaghetti is done, some cooks will throw a few strands of spaghetti up on a wall and see if it sticks.  If it does, it’s done.  That may work for spaghetti, but it doesn’t work for communication.  You cannot simply throw some communication up on the wall (or in this case, in the face of an unsuspecting listener) and hope that something might stick.  What happens is that your listener ends up with a lot of spaghetti on his face.  Or egg on yours! For these three reasons, this myth is a dangerous one to adopt for we are, indeed responsible for the assumptions others make whether through the sin of omission, a false statement or by allowing someone to assume something that isn’t true.  Politicians are masterful at this.  Christians shouldn’t be.  We are called for greater things.

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