To Guess is Human

June 24, 2017

Projection is assuming a motive for another person’s actions and then judging the motive. Over the last few days I’ve witnessed a lot of projection.

A coworker thinks others judge him because of some things he said in the pressure of the moment recently. Another had a medical mishap but was embarrassed. A third states why they think the boss made a decision, but based on information I have, they’re not even close.

We see others project assumed motives in a number of places. Right now there’s a pretty tense discussion going on a forum I read. Some readers are pretty sharp in their comments about their disappointment with a recent change. Others criticize the critics. They argue about the use of words and the tone of written forum posts.

We seem to project when we don’t know. Brene Brown talked about this in Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Her language for the action was that we tell ourselves stories. One of the stories you often hear is what the other political party is doing. My most conservative friends seem to think they have a good idea of what other, more liberal people think. And my liberal friends also think they have a good idea of what the conservatives think.

Neither story seems to represent well, what I think. I wonder how accurate we are guessing what our bosses, or politicians or “Wall Street” or the bleeding hearts are thinking when they do something.

How often do I speculate and judge the motives I’ve guessed for others? I noticed that I only notice projection in others. I don’t often notice it in myself. However, I remember times when I have pontificated about why my boss did something, or what my wife meant when she made a face or turned away while I was talking. I can project with friends, thinking I know what their motives are for something. When I don’t know, I can project; more than I’d like to admit.

To Guess is Human |

When I’m really honest, I can even get pretty worked up in my own thoughts because of what I think others are thinking. Honesty can be a lot of work.

While we’re being honest, we’re probably much worse at guessing than we think we are. If everyone is out to get us, why don’t they? If they haven’t “gotten us” yet, it may be because they’re not.

When I’m not sure, maybe I can ask the person instead of guessing their motives. Can I withhold judgement until I know for sure? Can I withhold judgement even after I know. And if I can’t find out from the person, maybe I could ask God. He knows everything. Maybe he can help me put myself in the other person’s place. Maybe he can help me give them the space to be what He made them to be. Maybe I can remember the whole world wouldn’t be much fun if everyone thought and acted exactly the same way I do.

Or maybe not. What do you think? Do you ever catch yourself projecting motives onto someone else? Do you find you project motives onto others that would never be your motive? Or do you find you project the same motives you commonly have? I’d really like to know. Take a moment and comment below and share this with your friends. Thanks in advance.

Photo Yuri Acurs