You’ve heard it before that, whenever you assume, you make an Ass out of U and Me. Well, assumptions make up a large part of our lives. We assume so many things and accuse others of making wrong assumptions about our intentions, that it’s become part of our daily psychological diet.
There is that funny story of a man at a bar who has a banana in his ear. A man comes in and sits just a few stools down from him. He spots the man with the banana in his ear and thinks to himself, “poor man has no clue there’s a banana in his ear. I better help him out and bring this to his attention.”
He leans in a bit, and he says “Eh…excuse me, sir, but you’ve got a banana in your ear.” The man says, “What?” raising his voice, he repeats himself, “I said, you’ve got a banana in your ear.” It’s met with another, “I’m sorry, could you say that again?” This time at the top of his lungs he screams “YOU’VE GOT A BANANA IN YOUR EAR”. The old man shouts back, “sorry son, but you’re going to have to speak louder, I’ve got a banana in my ear.”
Poor boy really thought he was doing the man a service. He assumed the man had no idea about the banana. By the end of the conversation, he was so stressed out about something the man already had prior knowledge of.
YOU’RE DEFINITELY A MUSLIM
There are other times when we look at the man in a turban and think, “That man looks Muslim.” We approach the man, “What is it like to be Muslim?” only to receive a reply, “I’m not, I’m Sikh actually”. We become so convinced of our assumption that even when the evidence is laid before us, we make more assumptions that he’s lying and tell him he’s Muslim. That, my dear readers, is the human condition and one not quickly broken.
Then some would argue that making assumptions are necessary as they can lead to a good outcome. For example, I assume the man in the diner with the young lady is looking slightly suspicious. I make up a story in my head he’s kidnapped her, and that’s why they’re acting strange. I become so convinced of this based on what I assume to be bizarre behaviour. What do you know? I call the police, and it turns out my assumptions were right.
I think it’s not making the assumption that is bad practise; instead, the whole becoming convinced of ones hypothesis that’s the problem. I can assume the man in the turban is Muslim without becoming convinced of it. In this way, when I do inquire further about the matter, I won’t be disappointed when I’m told the truth.
Doing this means I’m not expecting the answer I want either so as not to make further assumptions he’s lying. Even if I do make additional assumptions he’s lying, I will not be totally convinced of that either until I’m presented with further evidence yet again.
It’s really the whole not becoming convinced of our assumptions that’s important. Saying, “Sir I’m convinced you’re a kidnapper” and it turns out he’s not, you end up looking like an ass. If you say “Sir, based on your behaviour I may be wrong, but I think you might be a kidnapper”, and it turns out he’s not one, then you just looked like a concerned citizen is all.
Making assumptions and becoming convinced of them assumptions can get us into a world of good or trouble. It’s much safer to take action without the conviction part, and I would assume that you assume I’m right, am I right? Yes, of course, I’m totally convinced of my assumption that you’re going to like this article.