The assumptions we sometimes (perhaps often) hold become like a dirty film that encrusts our windows to the point we can no longer see out of them! In other words, our assumptions blind us, distort our view of people and life, the world.
How do we form assumptions? Well instead of observing what is going on around us in the world, instead of checking facts, instead of trying to understand another person’s view, we tend to bias our views on what is going on in our inner world. And so we base our views on our emotions, feelings, expectations, beliefs, preceptions, and even our desires and wishes. Our inner world, which can be so helpful and yet in extremis, so unhelpful, becomes, in assuming things, the controlling factor. In assumption there is no second voice, no check, no brake, no alternative canvassed, it is all in our mind. In assumption we are going solo, but we are also going mono. The problem is we begin to believe our own views to the exclusion of other voices and facts, and we become convinced that we are right, and we live into our own reality, our own version of the world.
Simple assumtions don’t really matter, but important ones really do.
One example would be the infamous bystander effect. Following the murder of Kitty Genovese in NY city in 1964, researchers Latane and Darley discovered that there were many witnesses, but all had assumed another would act or do something, hence their coined phrase The Bystander Effect (perceived diffusion of responsibility).
Another example would be the original 1968 Broken Window Theory where Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo was able to prove that when buildings, parked vehicles, and property in general are left unrepaired, some people assume they too can vandalise that property. Thus, one broken window becomes several broken windows on a factory. We assume no one cares.
In terms of people we often make assumptions. We have written off people with disability, we have been suspicious of the foreigner, the refugee, the person who is different by race, colour, belief, creed. Sometimes we cannot even see the person if they hold different political or religious views. we assume they are too different, not from our world, not of our kind. We assume they are dangerous. We just assume.
We must clean our windows! Alan Alda makes a good point when he said: “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
Assumptions are costly in every way.
One of the greatest antidotes to assumption is dialogue, to simply sit with your neighbour, be that house, train, bus, walkway, beach, college, wherever, just get to know the person and not the assumption. Simple really, yet so little practiced. The other antidote is to check your internal view against what is going on around you, don’t just take self-reference as the expert view, or what I call the Facebook view of the world.
Talk and reflect – what do you see now?
All is now darkened my mind has painted the glass my ears will bring light ©Paul Cannon