In our most recent post, I found it incredibly hopeful reading through the wise words shared by so many of you. Today I’d like to elaborate on a single one.
In response to “how can you/me be part of the solution,” one person wrote:
“Deconstruct some of your assumptions about how we are different.”
No doubt all of us have been on the receiving end of another’s assumptions. We’ve been assumed to be all sorts of things… to have some outlandish ideas… to be a little crazy… to have succumbed to all the lies… to vote a certain way… to lean drastically one way or another. The root issue is that we make assumptions about another we deeply believe to be true…
When they are not.
Here’s the thing. However we voted, at least approximately 75 million people voted differently than each of us. Picture that for a moment. 75,000,000. What flawed logic it would be for me to exert or even entertain an assumption that I could make about everyone who voted differently than me. Or even the same. Assumptions simply do not make sense.
Wrote career marketer and strategic consultant, Sarah Blick, a few years ago on her namesake’s blog:
“Why assumptions start…
It’s easy to make assumptions. All you need is incomplete information about a situation. And an unwillingness to ask the questions you need to complete the information. In the absence of complete information, you have to fill in the blanks yourself.
You fill in the blanks with YOUR interpretation of what you see or hear. Your interpretation comes from past experiences that seem similar. It comes from your past experiences, and also from those you’ve heard about from others.
Armed with your information, you connect dots that aren’t there. You can’t help doing this because you’re missing relevant information. In trying to make sense of the situation, you make connections between today and the past. Connections that don’t really exist. You jump to conclusions that are wrong.”
Let’s repeat what we hear…
It’s easy to make assumptions.
Our information is incomplete.
My own unwillingness is in play.
My assumption is based on my interpretation from my experience and what I hear.
I connect dots that aren’t there.
I then make connections and conclusions that are wrong.
Continues Blick: “Assumptions are ALWAYS wrong. I have a perfect record with the assumptions I’ve made. 100% of them have been wrong. And it’s hard to believe that I’m unique in this.”
Hence, let’s insert a hard question here: who have I made assumptions about?
… that I know? … and that I don’t? And have I made any about those millions?
Blick urges we “avoid making assumptions like the plague,” believing it’s toxic, divisive behavior — lazy, too — with all due respect — as it’s less effort, less work on our part.
A prudent encouragement is therefore to instead ask questions. Ask questions instead of making assumptions. Ask them instead of discounting another. Ask them instead of even writing another off (… recognizing we’ve utilized incomplete info to do so). Sit longer with the unknown, the inconvenient, and yes, the uncomfortable. Ask questions about what you don’t understand. Adds Blick, “I’ve grown a lot from all the information I’ve gathered through asking questions… I’ve deepened my compassion for others by understanding the fears that lay behind their assumptions. I’m more positive. I’m more fun to be around.”
Time to commit to deconstructing our assumptions. They are not true — no matter how fervently we’ve convinced ourselves otherwise.
Once, in fact, several years ago, a group of curious teens assumed I was a very successful Olympic badminton player. I kid you not…
(Dare I say, that one, I shrewdly allowed to stand.)