My son Benedict (middle), together with his Grade 1 classmates, performs their jingle for their school’s Nutrition Month.

When my Grade 1 son’s teacher was transferred, we expected the replacement to be quite the same as the one transferred: nice, amiable and child-friendly.  To our dismay, the new teacher was neither.

To my mind, one would not enjoy talking to this new teacher because she always seems to be in a hurry, she rarely smiles, probably why my son would soon give her a moniker at home– “Ms. Sungit” (Google translates: surly, unfriendly, to name a few). That description, which came from nowhere, did not surprise me and my wife at all. We already had a hint back home, once hearing my son mimicking his teacher’s manner of speaking when they play ‘aral-aralan’ with his sister and cousins.

I am not out to malign the teacher in this post.  To be fair, I do not know her personally; neither does she know I am writing about her now.  This brings to mind a quote attributed to an English writer, I once read from an old friend’s notebook: We hate some persons because we do not know them; and will not know them because we hate them”.

Given that, what I wish to express right now is my own realization of how personal expectations could badly ruin the way I look at a person and bring me unintended disappointments.

Many times, these expectations I had of people would prove themselves unrealistic and unfair to the person in question and sometimes to me.  This is why for me, it’s okay to get disappointed with a person but judging them is another thing for it shuts the door towards knowing the person fully well.

In times like this, I find my own String theory of personal interactions useful.  Just a caveat: my theory is different from that found in quantum physics which is more complicated and nosebleed-inducing.  Before I explain further, allow me to give another scenario for you to consider.

A couple was disappointed about their married life; both of them were thinking that the other turned different from when they first met each other. As a result, much of their married life felt unhappy.

An indifferent spouse, an unhappy marriage. Well, these things sure are disappointing in many ways.  To be disappointed is understandably human, but to dwell too much into that disappointment so as to close doors to believing the better or the best in a person is self-destructive.  It deprives us of that beautiful opportunity of improving our relationships with others such as neighbors, friends, and our family, in this case – our spouse.

It’s okay to feel bad about what a person wrongly does but it does us no good to doom that person for life, besides, judging is a job for none of us.

In most of these cases, it is not that the people are too bad they don’t fit our definitions but that our expectations are unrealistic they fuel our prejudices.

This is not to say we shouldn’t expect anything from other people at all, that’s far from it.  Who doesn’t want to meet a friendly and good mannered person in the first place?  Who doesn’t want a perfect marriage after all? Perhaps, it would do better to calibrate our expectations and always give people the benefit of the doubt.

Enter my String Theory of personal interactions.  Derived from that Pinoy term “pisi” (string) which when used as an idiom could mean patience or forbearance. (Ok, I just saw you making face. I am no patient person.) Yet, this own theory of mine encourages me to be more patient with a person by pulling out a string of probable explanations as to why a person acts the way he or she is.   No, this does not require you to be a rocket scientist, a quantum physicist or a registered psychologist to understand. It’s not complicated to begin with.

Giving the other person the benefit of the doubt makes us think beyond our selves. It opens the door previously shut by our prejudice and unreasonable expectations, to understanding first the behavior, then the person next.

Using my string theory, one might somehow imagine this:

The spouse (one or both of them) could think that his partner could have been changing because of age, experience or disease. The partner may have turned cold because they both lack appreciation, and so on.

The list of probable explanations could go on.  I bet you found nothing special in my theory, nothing is even new. You’ve done it once before. The only difference is that this time, you open yourself to a string of endless probabilities that could explain the other person’s behavior.

How then could that make the world a better place? For me, that’s just the start.  If all people exercise the string theory (or call it whatever you like), then you could imagine the difference.

Using my own theory to good use: my son’s teacher is who she is, and there is a lot of probable explanations that should be enough in understanding her. My unrealistic expectations, however needs to be put right.

This I should now be telling myself: the next time I disliked a person just because she does not respond in a manner I expect, I should think of the many possible reasons why she is what she is.