We are shaped by our surroundings. Our families, friends, school experiences, cultural upbringing, etc. all play a part in making us who we are. These things help to determine our values, perspectives, how we act and react and what we dream about. So when we see others act, speak and make decisions in situations, we automatically make assumptions about WHY they did those things based on how WE would do those things.
For instance, imagine that a new employee begins the new job but one person refuses to make eye contact when they greet each other. The new employee could assume that the other person is disrespecting him by not looking at him in the eye when they talk. But when they discuss it, the new employee discovers that in the culture that the other person comes from, it is disrespectful to look directly at people when speaking, especially those who are older. So instead of being disrespected, the opposite is actually the case!
The problem of course comes when the WHY (that we have assumed) creates negative emotion in us. In the previous example, the new worker could have become quite bitter about the other employee’s non-eye contact, and in time refuse to speak to him. And because they work together on the same team, their non-communication results in tasks not getting accomplished, or getting done twice! At that point, the staff team is no longer working well together reducing effectiveness and creating stress in the workplace.
What do we do to ensure that we are not making wrong assumptions? Just talk. When I wonder why someone did or said something, especially when bitterness starts to creep in, I need to check it out with them so that I understand why they said or did it. Many times, a clear understanding will change everything. And checking it out will make the other person feel respected because I was willing to have the conversation.