Assume: Suppose to be the case WITHOUT proof.
I remember once, as a student, I was confident about getting extremely good marks in one of the History tests. When my teacher announced that only one person had got the highest marks, I was sure it was me. It came as a shock when she announced someone else’s name. She started distributing the papers. She came to my paper. She then announced it to the class – (I still remember the disbelief in her eyes while announcing): Rupa also got the highest – 28/30.
Can you see the number of assumptions in this small incident? – 1. My teacher assumed that only the usual class topper could achieve the highest marks. 2. Her shock/delight on the face while announcing my marks made me feel that she felt that I was incapable of getting good marks.
This can very well be my assumption as well right? Maybe someone else did the totaling for her. Maybe someone else missed out that two people had got the highest marks. Maybe she was delighted but I read her facial expression as shocked. I too rushed to make the assumption that my teacher was playing favorites; it could have simply been an honest mistake on her side. I honestly don’t know what happened but I made one too many assumptions in the brief 5-10 minutes.
Oh well, that day opened my eyes to the world of prejudices, judgments, and beliefs.
Assumptions surround us wherever we go. We make them as well as are on the receiving end of the same. We don’t like it when people make assumptions about us and yet we continue to assume about others. Assumptions are breeding ground for strong judgments and even stronger belief systems that shape our life.
In statistics we have a null hypothesis – here the conclusion can be different from the assumption. We are testing our assumption and are OK if the conclusion is different from that of our assumption.
In real life, an assumption is often mistreated as a conclusion and therein begins the ego battle. Very few are able to go back on their words, swallow their pride with utmost grace. Most tend to indulge in long justifications, elaborate the helpless situation that led to the assumption, bring in the past experiences so on and so forth.
Assumptions are mostly made because it’s not easy to carry the weight of “I don’t know”. Knowledge and knowing what the other is thinking is considered an esteem gift. It is an esteemed gift as long as factual else they are assumptions [and as the cliché goes – it makes an ass of you and me].
I wonder, is “wanting to be correct” and exhibiting information to others so important? Is it necessary to know each and everything under this universe? Are we so troubled that if someone else has more knowledge than us, we make assumptions and present them confidently as conclusions?
It’s liberating to embrace “I don’t know” and ask more questions to understand something better with greater clarity. Assumptions can make one look stupid unless you are quick to accept your mistake in understanding. If one is not ok with making mistakes, a lot of time gets spent in protecting and justifying the stupidity.
For a moment, reflect on your interactions with people – in person or on social media. How many assumptions have been made? A lifestyle blogger gets assumed as shallow, a fat person is assumed to be troubled by weight, a rich person assumed to be happy, a middle-class person is assumed to be bogged down by expenses – there are a zillion assumptions one can make.
How much knowledge do we really have about the exact current situation about these people? What value are these assumptions adding to our life? If they are not truly adding any value, what is the point of making them and even worse holding onto them? I say release the burden of assumptions….
Lesson Learnt: What not do in life? Assume