Tuesday 7 August 2012

I assume so...don't you think?

Assumptions.  We all make them and I’m as guilty as any – if not more so.  But really, how can you ever know what someone is thinking, what someone is experiencing?  Even if it seems oh so certain?  

Adrian came in the other day from the pub (nothing unusual there, you might assume, and you'd be right). But then he said – ‘I was talking to X and, y’know, he’s really struggling.’  And he looked incredibly puzzled. ‘I’d got it all totally wrong,’ he said.  'I had just assumed...'

What had he assumed?  That this guy, maybe because of his accent, his bearing, his attire, whatever, was moneyed; that he had family dosh lurking in the background to bail him out. Wrong.  Very wrong.  I had a similar thing at university. Because I went to a northern college and had a Surrey accent, people assumed I was wealthy. Ditto at City Limits – I was allegedly the ‘rich bitch’ who’d been bought a flat by her parents.  Er, wrong.  I scraped together a deposit for a flat by subsisting on crackers for a year and camping on my grandmother’s floor.  If I recall, at that particular time my “uber-rich” daddy was in Pentonville because he couldn't afford to pay his tax.

And that's just another assumption.
But it’s not just about money; it’s everything. And I'm not simply talking about lazy stereotyping, about the whole judging a book by its cover thing. I'm thinking about people we know; people we think (assume) we know (though how can you know anyone, really?). We think people are thinking about us; we think people aren’t thinking about us.  We assume they like us or don’t like us; we assume they are disapproving of us; we assume they’re having a hissy fit and so on and so forth.  A lot of the time, of course, we’re projecting our own feelings onto them so it’s always worth turning it around.  Whatever you’re thinking, does it really apply to you?  You think people don’t like you?  Maybe you don’t like them; or maybe you don’t like yourself? 

But generally we turn ourselves into mind-readers.  All in all, we just think way way too much.  

Sometimes it's just plain funny.
'You're angry with me,' said James.
'I am?'
'What makes you think that?'
'You look angry.' 
'How do I look?'
'Well, you're sort of frowning and your eyes are crinkled up.'
'Maybe I'm just suppressing a fart.' 
'Oh. So you're not angry with me?'
'Er, no.'

So, maybe try asking yourself: how do you know it’s true?  Cos, really, you can’t know. You can’t possibly.  Not unless you ask.  And that comes back to that other old bugbear, communication.  And we don’t like that, not one little bit. Not really, not truly, not honestly. 

But then again, is there any point?  Because, of course, you can ask but someone can lie, or dodge the question, or simply not answer.  And then, of course, we make a whole fresh pile of new assumptions. 

And then again again, we can all change our minds in the blink of an eye, so really…when is anything ever true? When is anything ever certain? Hanging onto certainty is like catching raindrops.  So why worry?  And there's certainly no point in assuming because, even if your assumption was right a moment ago, maybe it isn’t now.

Funny old world, innit? 

Am I assuming too much? :-)
Then again, this is just personal stuff, right?  Like individual interactions.  Sometimes, I think (ho ho) that we don't think enough (or open our minds wide enough) when it comes to other stuff - but I'm not even going to get into the assumptions we make on a wider, social scale - how we jam our brains shut when it comes to politics, religion, economics, science etc.  Sometimes things seem so black and white, don't they?  But, hey...try paddling in grey.  Challenge every assumption.  About everything.  Always.  


Hildred said...

Wise words and good advice - I should know better but am still making wild assumptions about practically everything, and then feeling foolish and cross with myself....life is a learning experience right until the very end.

Tee said...

It's strange how much people *do* assume, especially when it comes to how others feel and think. We shall never know, unless we ask. I am a big asker. Is everything okay? Are you pissed at me? How's life?

That said, even then, can we really trust the answers. People love to lie. And not even for evilness. Simply to prevent you from hurt sometimes.

That said, I don't assume. Or try not to the best of my ability. Not even about myself.

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Anne Wareham said...

I think that just ten minutes inside anyone else's mind would astonish us and demonstrate that even asking and getting attempted 'honest' answers to questions about how others are, or what is going on with them, gives us only a glimpse.

No wonder we're fascinated by this great mystery - what IS going on out there in other people's minds?

Zoë said...

Guilty as charged M'lud.

But then I am assuming you know this already *ironic giggle*


Anonymous said...

Ass u me? :o)

(Please prove you're not a robot. Type the two words: 'Debirs 75')

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic. I am often astonished at assumptions about myself that are fed back to me. I remember one good friend's husband saying: "well, you'r the type of career woman who is definitely putting off settling down and doesn't want children because you are pursuing other goals!"

Errrr - not really. That's kind of the life I'd love but that hasn't happened.

Made me wonder whether it was actually a little insight into his own relationship (his wife isn't sure about kids) or whether that really is how I come across to people who meet me.

Hard to tell.

Family Affairs said...

So right and as we get older we assume more and it's dangerous unless you're bored with the world and don't want to learn anything new. Best to keep asking questions and challenging everything - although that sort of attitude really pisses off my kids Lx

family Affairs said...

Aaaagh - that bloody "prove you;re not a robot" is driving me mad - I'm too blind to read the stupid numbers and letters and now I've lost my comment - which was something along the lines of you are so right and it's important to keep challenging and asking questions - even if it's to piss your children off Lx
(but it was much more erudite than that it's just that I've got to go now) x

The bike shed said...

Wise words - and engagingly put too. I am terribly guilty, especially with the visitors who come to Wales bearing Southern accents; I have this innate assumption that they are all public school toffs when in truth most are little different to me.

Just me and the dog said...

Interestingly I have had a different experience. For years when I thoughht someone might be mad at me, or not like me I would say to myself: don't assume. It might be just your own projections. However I eventually figured out that my intuition was correct, and that I needed to learn to trust it. The people weere most often really put off or didn't like me or whatever, and were sending out subtle and not so subtle signals to that effect, though not of course ever coming right out and saying so.

Unknown said...

Don't know how I ended up here, too much Bombay Saphire I suspect.

But was struck by this post and all I can think about or assume is .......


Or am I making assumptions of what people think I am and getting upset about it?

Or am I just upset because they don't think? or am I assuming that they don't think and that upsets me?

My word it's a never ending circle.


Fran Hill said...

We should never judge a book by what we think we see on its cover.

Anonymous said...

On second thought... Can I really prove I'm not a robot...?

(5 is up she)

Expat mum said...

Funny what you say about people up north assuming you're either posh or spoilt (or both) because of your Surrey accent. I had the reverse when I went to Bristol and was the only Geordie anyone ever met. I swear some people thought we had an outside toilet and a tin bath!
Even last week, I had a comment on an article I'd written for Expat Focus, about the class system being alive and well in England (from what I experienced in my June visit.) Some chap from another web site said he didn't agree with me and even decades ago he heard a lot of "northern accents" in London. Ergo - there were and are, northerners (read, working class types) in London so there's no class discrimination. I just didn't know where to start with that comment!!

Anonymous said...

I don't think any of us actually think enough....

ain't for city gals said...

It is so funny how our ego gets in the way of our thinking. A New Earth by Echart Tolle changed my life forever for the better...very few people are even listening to what we have to say...they are thinking what they are going to say next!...good post...came over from Rob Bear..

Sessha Batto said...

I try not to assume I know what other people are thinking, mostly because so many assume I'm angry when I just have sort of a frowny face at rest ;) I ask a lot of questions, sometimes people get upset, but often they were just waiting for someone to honestly inquire as to how they were.