In his article “Assumptions: The Mother of All F*#%-Ups” on Psychology Today, Mark Goulston, MD, highlights the detrimental effects of assumptions in our daily lives. Dr. Goulston argues that assumptions are responsible for most misunderstandings, conflicts, and even violence.
Assumptions are defined as beliefs or judgments we make about something or someone without sufficient evidence. They are based on our biases, prejudices, and past experiences, and can be either positive or negative. However, as Dr. Goulston points out, assumptions can be dangerous because they are often wrong and can lead to serious consequences.
One of the main problems with assumptions is that they can create misunderstandings and miscommunications. When we assume something about someone, we may act on that assumption without checking its accuracy. For example, if we assume that our friend is angry with us because they didn’t return our call, we may become defensive or upset, without realizing that they were simply busy or didn’t receive the message. This can lead to unnecessary conflict and damage to the relationship.
Assumptions can also be harmful when they are based on stereotypes and prejudices. When we assume something about a person based on their race, gender, religion, or other characteristics, we are not only unfair but also perpetuate discrimination and bias. For instance, assuming that all Muslims are terrorists or that all women are emotional and irrational can lead to bigotry and hate crimes.
Moreover, assumptions can be self-fulfilling prophecies, meaning that our beliefs about something or someone can influence our behavior and create the very outcome we feared. For instance, if we assume that a job interview will go badly, we may act nervous and unconfident, and thereby decrease our chances of success. Similarly, if we assume that our partner is cheating on us, we may become jealous and suspicious, and thereby damage the trust and intimacy in the relationship.
To avoid the negative effects of assumptions, Dr. Goulston suggests several strategies. First, he advises us to question our assumptions and seek evidence to support or refute them. Instead of assuming that our boss is angry with us, we can ask them directly and listen to their response. Instead of assuming that a person is unfriendly, we can initiate a conversation and discover their interests and values. By doing so, we can prevent misunderstandings and build trust.
Second, Dr. Goulston recommends that we practice empathy and try to see things from the other person’s perspective. When we assume that someone is wrong or bad, we are often projecting our own fears and insecurities onto them. By empathizing with their feelings and needs, we can recognize the common humanity that we share and find a solution that benefits everyone.
Third, Dr. Goulston advises us to be open-minded and flexible in our thinking. When we assume that we know everything or that our way is the only way, we limit our options and creativity. By being open to new ideas and perspectives, we can expand our knowledge and enrich our lives.
In conclusion, assumptions are indeed the mother of all f*#%-ups, as Dr. Goulston puts it. They can cause misunderstandings, conflicts, and even violence, and are based on our biases, prejudices, and past experiences. To avoid the negative effects of assumptions, we need to question our assumptions, practice empathy, and be open-minded. By doing so, we can create a more peaceful, harmonious, and understanding world.