There were a couple of things that came together in an unfortunate way, and before I knew it, I had created a train wreck like there’s no tomorrow. I’ve tried to figure out what happened, what went wrong, and also to explain the basic problem so perhaps you can be spared of the same kind of bad scene unraveling right before your eyes should you find yourself in a similar situation — which you probably won’t (but maybe “better safe than sorry”).
The reason why something like this probably won’t happen to you boils down to this: You are not me. Today I think I’ve learned something about myself — and in particular: something I want to try to change. Over the years, I have acquired a habit — in many cases, it can be quite useful… but in some cases it can lead to disastrous results. Simply: The habit is to make guesstimates and to go with the hunches rather than to wait to get more reliable information (a phrase that captures the spirit of such ball-park winging it is “the perfect is the enemy of the good”).
Now I understand that no one can ever be 100% certain of anything — that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about being 50% or 60% or maybe 70% certain, versus being 95% or perhaps even 99% certain. In many cases, being just pretty certain (as in: just a little bit certain) is good enough — but there are some cases where it should never suffice.
One such case is when talking with close personal friends about very private, personal matters. In such situations, you should never make strong, declarative statements based on little more than a hunch. This is not simply a matter of being polite — this is not about prefacing your remarks with “I think” or “I feel” — this is about formulating an expression that will help the person you care about… or not. If you are only 60% certain, then maybe it’s better if you just keep your mouth shut. If the matter is very important, maybe only open your mouth if you are 99% sure that it’s right and you are 99% sure that it will help.
Faster is not always better. Sometimes a ball-park estimate is not good enough. And sometimes a mistake is simply inexcusable… and that is quite probably quite often the case if the issue has to do with sensitive issues.