Sometimes I react to situations without first taking a step back.

At work I am occasionally frustrated by my computer’s inability to work as fast as I’d like it to. A combination of factors usually contributes to this. It could be that too many people are accessing the network at the same time; or it could simply be that the computer needs to be replaced. Most of the time, it’s the case that the temporary files need to be dumped. I will then run a free program, that a co-worker told us about, called CCleaner when I notice the sluggishness in certain programs, and once I run it, and reboot the computer, my computer problems are gone, until the next computer dump.

We purchased a new shredder for the boss about eight months ago. It’s the type of shredder where you can put roughly 100 sheets of paper in the tray, close the lid, and the shredder will begin shredding without the need to feed it sheets of paper. This is convenient and efficient. The other day the boss called out to me from his office and asked if we were still under warranty on the shredder. He thought it was broken. “It’s not shredding anymore,” he said. “I’ve tried everything. Can you please call and find out how we ship it back and get a new one.”

“Can I have a look first,” I asked.

“Sure, go ahead.” I walked over and stood looking down at the shredder in his office. He was still hovering over it.

“Could you please move, so that I can have a closer look?”

He backs away from the machine. I lift the cover, place the pages down, and shut the cover. It begins shredding and then stops. Hmm. I hear the boss say something. He’s convinced the shredder needs to be replaced.

I get down on my hands and knees, open the door to the shredder, and pull out some loose shreds that have fallen to the far back. I then crane my head and look up into the mouth of the shredder where the teeth are. I see a few pieces caught between the teeth. I pull them out, close the door and the lid. The machine begins shredding and it continues shredding until its job is done.

“It seems to be working now,” I say.

“Thanks,” he says followed by some compliment. He is not very free with compliments, mind you. But he makes up for it in other ways.

This small episode reminded me of how easy it is to jump to conclusions, whether it’s as inconsequential as dealing with a piece of machinery or as significant as dealing with another human being. It’s important that we step back, give the situation space, assess the facts, allow ourselves to be objective—and above all—think through all possibilities, as humanly as we can, before we decide.

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