Life Lesson #2: You know what happens when you assume…

When I was in the 7th and 8th grade, I was at the peak of awesomeness…or nerdiness.

I was a mathlete,  participating and competing in math counts (an after school event geared towards making math more appealing and exciting, and allowing students to broaden their math skills). During our after school events, we’d complete many math problems as quickly as possible in order to earn stickers to put on our charts. The first person who answered the question correctly received the coveted red, shiny apple sticker for their chart (gosh-if only reinforcement were so simple at this age!)!

At some point during one of these lessons, someone must have said something along the lines, “I assume you do the problem this way…” At which point, our feisty math counts instructor taught us what happens when you assume. She became quite serious and stated, “You know, when you assume things, you make an a** out of you and me.” For some reason, I found this hilarious and laughed so hard that I fell out of my chair.

I can’t quite explain why it was so funny to me at the time (probably because I was in 7th grade and couldn’t suppress my laughter when an adult would swear in front of me-so mature), but learning that lesson is something that’s stuck with me for many years.

We make assumptions all the time. It’s easy to do. Our assumptions (or stereotypes at times) are what also us to group pieces of information or people or things together. They allow us to make sense of the world. They help us organize. They help us categorize. So, they’re a good thing?

Maybe. But only when they’re right. That’s the thing about making assumptions. Yes, some may argue that they’re helpful in some circumstances, but what if you’re assumption is wrong? Beyond making yourself and another person look like a…donkey (see what I did there)…you could be doing more damage than good when you assume things.  Often times, we assume things because we don’t have enough information to make a better decision. Instead of taking the time necessary to figure things out, we may jump to conclusions and make an assumption.

Here’s an example of how we assume (from: http://www.indiana.edu/~ensiweb/lessons/falsas11.pdf)

It is a hot August afternoon. The location is the living room in an old Victorian mansion. The 7-foot window is open and the curtains are blowing in the breeze generated by the thunderstorm that just passed. On the floor lie the bodies of Bill and Monica. They are surrounded by puddles of water and broken glass. Please close your eyes and picture the scene. Now change the picture. Neither Bill nor Monica has any clothing on. So, how did they die?

So, if you’re like me, you may have have that during a moment of passion, the storm outside had taken over and had somehow caused them to reach an untimely death. When, in fact:

Answer: They suffocated. The storm winds blew open the window, which knocked their fish bowl off the table, and it crashed onto the floor. False assumption: That Bill and Monica are human. They are actually goldfish.

Okay, so maybe it was a cheesy example, but you should get the point. We make assumptions. We look like a fool.

Two personal examples-When you see me, you see my light skin, brown hair, and blue eyes. You’d assume that I was of European descent. Though you’d be right in some sense, that wouldn’t be telling the whole story. I’m also Egyptian. You’d only have part of the story.

Another brief example. This past year has been really tough on me for a variety of reasons. I think one of things that contributed to all the craziness was related to people making assumptions. People only knew part of a story. People didn’t ask questions. People assumed they knew everything. People were treated me much differently. I would be lying if I didn’t say it wasn’t tremendously difficult. However, it taught me a lot about how destructive it can be when people make assumptions.

So, here’s my advice:

I mean, let’s face it, we assumed the earth was flat how many years ago and look how that turned out!

2 thoughts on “Life Lesson #2: You know what happens when you assume…

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