We assume others’ intentions.
Assumptions aren’t always a bad thing. They are part of the process of organizing the information around us as we make sense of the world. Our minds are built to look for information that fits, then assimilate it into what we already know or accommodate for it by making new categories and paths of thought. Assimilation and accommodation take effort; assumptions are an easier path. Assumptions create shortcuts—and short-circuit our growth and relationships. Assumptions, when wrong, hurt others and affirm us in thoughts and behaviors that are incorrect.
For example, consider how often we assume we know others’ intentions. A recent one that hits home is church worship service attendance as we resume meeting together in person. Some churches, including my home church, are encouraging making reservations. Some people complain and say that’s too much control for church, that it should be open to all. The assumption is, “Someone is trying to control things and stepping on people’s freedom.” But what if that’s not the motivation at all? Of course, in some cases, it might be. But in many cases, it’s about caring for others, preparing, and being good stewards of people and the community.
We don’t just assume the worst about people. We might assume someone is trying to help us when they are manipulating us with strings attached.
We assume people are fearful if they wear a mask when they might not be concerned about themselves at all but have compassion for others they come in contact with. We assume people who don’t wear a mask and speak against the practice are indifferent to the impact they might have on others’ health, when they might be scared to take a stand, might be concerned about the discomfort of masks, or might be fearful of giving up any bit of freedom.
Of course, sometimes our assumptions are right. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it might be a duck. But my granddaughter likes to quack like a duck and waddle, and she is obviously not a duck, evidenced by other clues. Most of her behavior has nothing to do with a duck.
We need to be willing to look for other clues and ask questions. If we pause and gather more information, we’ll be less likely to act on assumptions that are potentially damaging to ourselves and others.