GUEST POST from Robyn Bolton
In the room were two single beds, each with a fluffy white comforter folded neatly on top.
“Yeah, this is not gonna work.”
I had just entered my one-bedroom corporate apartment in Copenhagen, and while everything else was pleasantly light and spacious, there was no way I would spend the next six months sleeping in a single bed.
So, I set down my suitcases and immediately pushed the two beds together, using the two nightstands to secure them. The two comforters would work since there was just one of me, and I made a mental note to request a king-sized comforter from the desk when I left for work in the morning.
Thus began the great Comforter Cold War of 2006/2007.
Every few days, I would request a king-sized comforter for my jerry-rigged king-sized bed. I would return to find one queen-sized comforter. The luxury of a larger comforter would diminish the disappointment of not getting an appropriately sized one, and I would bask in the warmth of fully covered sleep. For one night. The next day, I would return to my room only to find that the two single comforters had returned.
This went on for nine months.
I shared this story of passive-aggressive housekeeping at my going away party with my colleagues. Midway through the story, I noticed the absolutely baffled looks on their faces.
“Why did you want one comforter?”
“Because I have one bed. A comforter should cover the bed.”
“Why? A bed doesn’t need a comforter. A person does. You just need a comforter to cover you.”
[extended silence while we try to process each other’s points]
“So, does that mean that in Denmark, if a couple sleeps together, they each have their own comforter?”
“Yes, of course! Why would we share? Each person has their own temperature preferences, and there’s no worry about someone stealing your covers.”
My mind. Was. Blown.
This made so much sense. A comforter covers a person, so the 1:1 ratio of comforter to people is far more logical than a 1:1 ratio of comforter to bed (and often a 1:2 ratio of comforter to people). Seriously, how many relationships would be saved by simply having separate comforters?
Yet, for nine months, it made more sense to me to battle for a comforter size that apparently doesn’t exist in the country without ever asking why I couldn’t get what I was so clearly and reasonably (in my mind) requesting.
I assumed the apartment building didn’t have king-sized comforters or only enough for the actual king-sized beds. I assumed housekeeping was on automatic pilot, not realizing they were replacing a queen-sized comforter with two single ones. I assumed that communication amongst the staff was poor, so my request wasn’t being shared. I assumed a lot.
But I never assumed that I was wrong and that the root of the problem was a cultural difference so deeply ingrained and subtle that it never occurred to anyone to question it.
Question your assumptions.
Assumptions are a shortcut to understanding our world. Based on culture, experiences, and even stereotypes, we make assumptions about what came before, who we’re interacting with, what’s happening now, and what will happen next.
Most of the time, we’re right (or at least more right than wrong), so we keep making assumptions. It’s also why, when our assumptions are wrong, we tend to question everything but our assumptions.
And that kills innovation because it limits our curiosity and imagination, our perception of what’s possible, and our willingness to engage with and learn from others.
We all cling to assumptions that lead to Cold Wars.
Image Credit: Pixabay
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