Watch your assumptions: They might lead you down the wrong path
Note: I first published this post in late 2014. It still holds true for today!
Assumptions are a necessary evil. We all have them and our thoughts, words and actions are guided by them, sometimes too much. I suspect you can never totally tune them out, and you should never do so completely, but they can be the beginning of problems when not couched with other input and feedback. If assumptions are such a challenge, then there should be ways to deal with them. Let’s talk about that.
Our language is full of assumptions and we sometimes don’t even know we are making them in what we do and say. Let me share a few examples that I have experienced:
- May I speak with the man of the house? Not sure that is safe in today’s world.
- Get the right man for the job-with women continuing to join and grow their knowledge and expertise in the workforce this is a really challenging phrase that sometimes slips out in conversations I hear.
- Will your husband/wife be joining you? Again, the world we live in has more unmarried couples living together than those who are married, so the word spouse is becoming a safer term to use, even the term partner.
I could continue, but I only have limited time today.
Many of us also have built-in assumptions based on geography. There are those who think all southerners are backward and barefoot, but I swear I wear shoes most every day, really. Others make assumptions that everyone in Canada goes around saying “Aye” in every sentence. Wrong! Further, not everyone in Texas drives a SUV (but many do) and they don’t all own guns. As a Christian, I sometimes believe that other faiths are not as “correct” as mine, but I have to remember that a person’s belief is their own personal property and God will make the choice regarding who believes, not me. All I can do is share what He has done for me.
How does one go about using their assumptions to the best end? Here are a few suggestions that I try to employ:
- Do your homework before you communicate or meet with someone you do not know. This can be extremely helpful in so many ways. Knowing where someone grew up, what they have done, almost anything will make a valid difference in how you approach and address them.
- Western (American) customs are not necessarily the best to use when you are working with someone from outside the USA. I know that I have sometimes used that imperialistic mind-set that causes others to see us as “ugly Americans” and the best experiences I have had outside the country have helped curb my approach to others who don’t have the same conditioning that I have had.
- We all see the world through the lens of our experience. Be sure to know the refractive and magnification of your lenses. Doing so will keep you from quickly jumping to conclusions that could lead to awkward or even embarrassing situations.
The world, even our country, is a big place.
Remember what happens when you assume. Use more than your own lenses to judge a situation or others who are involved. You’ll be glad you took the time to look at something from other perspectives.
It’s time to go and head to my square dancing lesson. Some people think all of us here in Tennessee only line dance or square dance.
Just a little inside humor for today.