Recently I’ve been thinking about how unavoidable it is to make assumptions. An assumption is when something is taken for granted or accepted as true. Chances are you make them more than you realize. I’m not suggesting your assumptions are ill intentioned, in fact they probably come from a caring and loving place. The problem is that your assumptions are most likely based on your own personal understanding of how things should be.
People tend to assume others will live life a certain way because that’s how they want their life to be lived. An example of this mentality would include asking someone if they are dating anyone. Just because you’re in a relationship does not mean your friend wants to be in one too. They may be happy being single or they may be struggling with this very topic and get upset when asked about it. This pattern continues on after a couple has been dating and people directly decide to ask when they’re going to get engaged or after a couple has been married and others feel it is appropriate to ask when they are going to have children. Not everyone wants to get married and the person you’re asking when they’re going to have children may be the same woman who is having trouble conceiving or may be part of a couple who have decided they want to live a child free life. Sometimes these questions are asked without preemptive thought. The questions may seem innocent but can hurt others or make people feel like they have to defend their decisions. I think these questions come from underlying assumptions. Part of it is societal; society places value on certain things and then people are trained to ask questions based on society’s assumptions of how you should live. You’ve probably been the person asking a seemingly innocent question and you’ve also probably been the person on the receiving end of a question that stung for one reason or another. Next time you’re curious about someone’s personal life pause and think about how close you are to that person. Whether they’re an acquaintance or your best friend it’s important to respect their decision not to answer a personal question. I think it’s time for all of us to challenge ourselves to stop and think before asking questions.
More often than not we assume things about other people from looking at their lives on social media. For many people social media it is a crucial part of their lives, which is why I feel it’s important to remind others of its weaknesses. Often the assumption is that people have it all together because according to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, they do. Somebody’s reality is often different from what you are merely glimpsing through his or her life on social media. The person you assume gained weight may have gained weight because they are taking drugs for a serious medical condition. They choose not to share everything about themselves so you don’t know the truth behind what you’re seeing. Imagine finding out that the person who you perceive as always going on vacation is in massive credit card debt. Would that change your assumption about their life? If we can remember social media doesn’t give us the full picture it can help us assume less about other people. The people nearest and dearest to us share both the good and the bad about their lives and they share with us in person, not through their social media presence.
What assumptions do you make about other people and how they live their lives? Being aware of your assumptions is the start to being aware of how you interact with those around you.