Nov 252010

An assumption is something that we take for granted without bothering to find proof to support it. Assumptions are necessary. We have to assume many things to go about our daily lives. This is because we do not have the time and energy to challenge or to worry about every matter that comes our way. Unless we take certain things for granted, it would be very difficult to live. But making too many assumptions can also cause us problems. In this article, I shall address the dangers of assumptions.

Assumptions Stifle Growth and Development

Many people are quick to form assumptions about things that they have never tried before. Take a book for example. Based on an unappealing cover or title, or a negative review, they might dismiss it as a waste of time. Such assumptions can stifle your growth and development. If you dismiss ideas before learning about them or trying it out for yourself, you will miss many chances to become a better person.

Assumptions Hinder Creativity

Assumptions hinder our creative output. When we make assumptions, we place limits on our imagination and actions. We shut off many possibilities to come up with something new. Instead, we assume that we must do certain things in a certain manner and do not bother to ask why. Due to our assumptions, our solutions are hardly novel. What we end up doing is merely to repackage existing ideas. Instead of breaking new ground, we remain in our comfort zone and have difficulty coming up with fresh ideas.

Assumptions Cause Missed Opportunities

I have always wanted to visit Turkey and the Middle East. But not all the people I know who have visited the region have good things to say about it. It is tempting to assume that they might know better than I would. But if I made such an assumption, I would miss the chance of seeing things for myself. Different people can view the same event in different ways. If we assume too many things instead of trying it out for ourselves, we would miss many opportunities.

Assumptions Cause Erroneous Beliefs

Have you ever heard of the old wives’ tale that eating carrots can help you to improve your vision? How about getting wet from the rain could cause you to catch a cold? For those of us who are aware of the facts, it would seem odd to believe in such things. But there are people who have never thought to challenge these assumptions. They take such beliefs for granted.

Assumptions Cause Errors in Action and Judgment

Up until the 1800s, doctors believed that bloodletting was good for treating any type of ailment. Based on this faulty assumption, many doctors bled their patients to death instead of curing them. If the patient managed to survive, his body had to work doubly hard against the ailment and the loss of blood. When we make the wrong assumptions, we view events from a flawed perspective. As such, we are bound to make errors in our actions and judgment. In the worst-case scenario, we can end up causing harm to others or ourselves.

Assumptions Cause Misunderstandings

First impressions count. Imagine that you saw a person, who you never met before, losing his temper. Next, imagine that he was your new colleague. Your first impression of him would lead you to assume he was bad-tempered and unreasonable even if that was the only time he lost his temper. Unless you make an effort to know him better, you could easily get the wrong idea about him because of your assumptions.

Taking Action

We need to make certain assumptions in life. There is no way around this. But we should always be willing to look carefully at the assumptions we make. If need be, we should never be afraid to challenge their validity. Unless we do so, we will only end up missing opportunities and causing problems for ourselves that we could have avoided in the first place.

What are your views about assumptions? What are some of the assumptions that you make in life? Are there any other dangers of assumptions that you can think of? Do share your thoughts and comments below.

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  10 Responses to “The Dangers of Making Assumptions”

  1. Excellent assessment of the dangers of making assumptions.

    Here’s another assumption someone could make:

    One could be paranoid or self-conscious because they’re assuming others are thinking or talking about them.

    That’s a terrible assumption if it’s not true. And even if it is true, it’s still a bad assumption. If you have no real evidence for it, you should simply dismiss it. Such contemplations won’t improve the situation, can worsen the situation, and will put you in a subpar mood.

    Usually, we’re just not that important to people. And if we are, it’s them, and not us, with the issues.

    • Hi Bamboo Forest,

      You have raised a good point. Becoming self-conscious because we assume that others are thinking or talking about us does indeed affect our moods. It also does nothing to improve the situation as you rightly point out. Most people are too caught up with their own concerns to bother about others anyway.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  2. Hi The Vizier,

    Assumptions, as you suggest, are a quick way for us to try to predict the future. They give us a peace of mind to feel that we can have some certainty in an uncertain world.

    It can be very unsettling when something challenges our assumptions- we feel we have to look again at our view of the world.

    Making assumptions about other people’s behavior can be most surprising. I find that – as much as we might deny it – an individual person is quite predictable in how they behave in similar situations. But, it can be a real eye-opener when that person does something out of the ordinary, instead of what we might expect. Challenging other people’s assumptions about you can be good fun ;-)
    Scott McIntyre recently posted..7 Slow and Steady Steps to Turn Your Passion Into Your JobMy Profile

    • Hi Scott,

      You’re right about how unsettling it can be if someone challenges our assumptions. All of a sudden, we are forced to step out of our comfort zone.

      It is true that most people behave in a predictable fashion. Because of this, when they do something out of the ordinary, they take us off guard. Such a stratagem has been used frequently in warfare. A skilful general could lull the enemy into complacency with mundane actions. Then when the enemy starts to make false assumptions, the general could make an unexpected attack. This is why, when the stakes are high, it would be better not to make any assumptions.

      Hah, it can indeed be fun to challenge other people’s assumptions about you. But I am generally too lazy to do so. I just do what feels right at a given moment.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  3. I thought you were going to go for the old Benny Hill skit on what it is to assume. Just in case you haven’t heard it. to Ass|u|me is to make an “Ass” out of “U” and “Me”. ….bah-dum-bum

    I cannot help but think of that every single time I hear or see the word assume. Assumptions really are something that should just about always be avoided. People should either be ‘open” and willing to change their point of views or have precise reasons why (like they have BEEN on that trip to turkey and didn’t like it)

    Assumptions are just working on imprecise data. All saying that you assume something is meaning that you are willing to act on imprecise data rather than try to learn more and actually get a “real” idea
    Steve@Lifestyle Design recently posted..5 Incredible Ways Positive Thinking Can Help You Expand Your Internet BusinessMy Profile

    • Haha Steve,

      The old Benny Hill skit is a great way to open your comment! :D

      But joking aside, you are right. Assumptions are really something that should be avoided since it is based on imprecise data. If your data is imprecise, then you are bound to make errors in judgment due to your lack of knowledge.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  4. that is so true, i agree

  5. I am a teacher in a post-graduate school. In the kind of analysis I teach, assumptions are common pitfalls. I ask my students to identify (and question) every assumption they are making in their writing. Part of their training is having their assumptions challenged, and then having to defend them or change them.

    Over the years, I’ve learned that what I do in the classroom applies even more meaningfully in personal life. Although I am sometimes quick to make assumptions, I hope I am just as quick to question them and release them.

    Thank you for a provocative post!
    Galen Pearl recently posted..Pilgrims in ThailandMy Profile

    • Hi Galen,

      Those are some lovely insights you have shared. I fully agree with you that assumptions are common pitfalls in the classrom and in life. As long as we are quick to release the assumptions we make, we should all be just fine.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

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