Presidential Politics, Assumptions and Interpersonal Competence

This is a career and life success blog, so I keep it apolitical.  However, yesterday I had an experience that I want to discuss here.  In order to discuss it properly, I need to reveal my political leanings.  You’ll see why…

I was in midtown Manhattan yesterday.  A lot of Obama supporters were out soliciting support and contributions.  I’m a lifelong Democrat and have been a big fan of Senator Obama since I saw his talk at the 2004 Democratic convention.  There, now you know.  I’m supporting Obama for president.

Just out of curiosity, who are you supporting?  Why?

Back to the story…

I walked by one of the campaign workers twice on my way to meetings yesterday.  Each time I attempted to make eye contact.  Both times he looked away and approached other people.  The third time I walked by him, he was with another campaign worker who spoke to me.

I stopped and had a conversation with the two of them.  We discussed Senator Obama’s campaign, and the fact that I live in Denver and am working hard to get tickets for his nomination acceptance speech at Mile High Stadium.  They both said that they would like to be there too.

Then I asked the campaign worker who did not approach me the first two times I passed him why this was so.  He said, “I don’t know.  You just didn’t look like a Democrat, I guess.”  I wasn’t exactly sure how a Democrat looks – but apparently I didn’t fit the mold in this guy’s eyes.

Have you ever completely misjudged someone because of his or her appearance?  Please share your story by leaving a comment.

This brings me to the career and life success point I want make today.  Interpersonal competence is one of the success factors I discuss in my book “Straight Talk for Success.”  If you want to become interpersonally competent, you need to understand yourself and use this self knowledge to better understand others.  You also need to build strong relationships, and resolve conflict in a positive manner.

Assumptions are relationship killers.  They also make it difficult to resolve conflict positively.  Yesterday, I was wearing a dark blue suit, white shirt and striped tie.  For whatever reason, the young campaign worker assumed that my conservative attire meant that I was conservative politically.  He was wrong.  He also lost an opportunity for a campaign contribution.

The common sense point here is simple.  Avoid making assumptions about the people you meet.  If you find yourself making assumptions, test them out by engaging other people in conversation.  You’ll probably be surprised by how appearances can be deceiving.  Assumptions are relationship killers.  If you want to become interpersonally competent, you need to be able to build strong relationships with the people in your life.  Interpersonal competence is a key to become a success in your life and career.

That’s my take on appearances and assumptions – and the 2008 presidential campaign for that matter.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment letting me know what you think.  I welcome and encourage your comments.  I value every comment you leave.  They mean a lot to me. Thanks for reading.



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  1. Steve W. says:

    Although Senator Obama could sell anyone a glass of water in a rainstorm (that is a compliment), he is not my choice to be President this election season. I will be voting for John McCain and not because I am a blind supporter for Senator McCain rather because I believe it is the lesser of two evils.
    Senator Obama has preached words like “Hope” and “Change” throughout this primary season and has gathered a tremendous amount of supporters. Although I can appreciate positive thinking and positive self-actualization ( when Sen. Obama refers to “when he is elected”), it doesn’t sell me on the Senator as President. He has yet to show me what reason I have to Hope or what is going to change. He sings gloriously to the choir but he has not allowed me in to see what he has behind the curtain.
    Senator McCain is touted as “MCSame as Bush”. The question I ask is “How terrible would that be”? Sure gas prices are high, is that GWB’s fault? No. There is not a time ever that we sit back and say “This is the best time ever to be an American”. No, we always feel like things can get better. It’s only after something happens when you look back and say “Things were better then”.
    I agree with Senator McCain on the issue of Abortion (its wrong…special cases should be treated individually), on the economy (recession is partly psychological and not inevitable), education (parents and students should be at the center of education not teachers), health care (No mandated universal system; no mandated insurance coverage).
    I do not agree with Senator McCain on every issue, however it is enough for me to believe that he is the best choice for President this election season.
    Excellent post. I was always told not to assume because it only made an a** out of u and me.

  2. Steve:
    Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate you taking the time to write and the depth of your comment.
    Also, I was glad to note that you picked up on the main message of the post — assumptions are relationship killers.
    I hesitated to do that post because I try to keep my blog posts apolitical. But the incident with the two campaign workers was just too good to pass up on making a point about assumptions.
    Thanks again for your comment.
    All the best,

  3. Well put Bud.
    I work in the Middle East and my last electrician would have been a stand-up for Al Qaeeda with his robe, long beard, head-dress and big dagger in the belt topped off with a camo jacket. Nice soft spoken guy who realised when installing my equipment was beyond him and admitted he needed my help interpreting the English only manual. No different the other way either when we get fooled by the pretty camo on someone and think they are more than they really are, rather than less – I’ve been hoodwinked (not seriously) by a large number of political types over here because of the suit and tie and me thinking it makes them educated and moral in the way many western business people are. Lessons learned…..

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