You Say Tomato, I Hear Ketchup

A dear friend was nice enough to invite me to spend Christmas with her family this year, knowing that I didn’t have other plans (and knowing that every family function is better with an outsider present, so that everyone is on their better behavior!).

The problem: she said Christmas, but my brain heard Christmas Eve.

In the lead up to the holiday, we had a series of relatively vague (in retrospect) communications surrounding our plans, but it was easy enough for me to construe our plans in a way that was consistent with my belief that our get-together would take place on Christmas Eve…. and likewise, I didn’t raise any red flags for my friend, so she never thought to say “dude, we’re talking about Tuesday night, not Monday night!”

So, on Christmas Eve, I packed up my car and hit the road for her parent’s home (a two hour drive) …………………. and luckily texted her an “on my way!” sort of message, to which she responded just as you might expect, and we both had a realllllllly good laugh about the situation.

The thing is that it’s actually not really surprising that we had this miscommunication. Our brains do a lot of things habitually, without much critical thought involved. On the one hand, these habits are just plain necessary (it would be entirely overwhelming if we had to fully analyze every single thing we do each day), but on the other hand, it’s all too easy to hear ketchup when someone says tomato, if you’re not paying close enough attention!

Every day, we make numerous assumptions based on our past experiences, which help us to fill in present day information gaps; it’s a completely unavoidable reality. But, this experience was a GREAT reminder to me about the importance of 1.) recognizing when I’m making those assumptions, and 2.) directly asking clarifying questions…. so that I don’t end up in my car driving to Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve again!


  1. LOL re: best behaviour. So true. ;)

  2. anitadesignstudio · · Reply

    You don’t appear to have a ‘like’ button, so I’m going to have to write it: LIKE!

  3. Very interesting story. And inspiratif too..Love it!.

  4. Great post! This stuff happens all the time :)
    I just finished reading “The Power of Habit” and “Incognito” which both really relate to this.They are about the brain and how so much of what we do is unconscious (which is mostly a good thing), but that we can reprogram our habits and train ourselves to notice more… sort of also what you were talking about in your Grass is Greener post.

    1. I read The Power of Habit a little while back and found it to be extremely interesting. I’ll have to check out Incognito… thanks for the recommendation!

  5. You have no idea how many times I’ve thought about this :) Nice post. Very entertaining!

  6. Loved your post, especially the title :-) Psychology was my favourite subject at University. I was always particularly fascinated with the communication psychology and how a message, that has one meaning for its creator, can have a completely different meaning for its recipient depending on his or her experience in life. That’s why I like blogging and getting comments from my readers and followers that allow me to see, how the same post/message can mean different things to different people.

  7. I do this a lot and my poor husband has been left in all sorts of places becasue I haven’t processed what I’ve heard properly.

  8. Just made me realize how our brain jumps to what it is familiar with.

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