What do people assume about you? Is it correct? Or, did they miss the mark entirely and assume something totally incorrect about you? False assumptions happen about us, and we, in turn, make incorrect assumptions about others. Sometimes, those are wildly inaccurate; sometimes, they are nuanced and not wholly accurate but might be closer to the truth than patently false.

Why? Because we base our assumptions on what we know, learn, are acculturated into by society, or observe, those assumptions might be complete, 180 degrees from the truth (or reality) depending on the sources we consult. And do we really know if those sources are factual or not? We also grow up in a particular time and place with particular societal norms. Those norms can often be no longer valid because society has changed. We have changed. We have grown, learned more about others, maybe we’ve read more widely, or maybe we’ve lived in a different culture; we’re not who we used to be.

And then, it happens. People who knew you “way back when” assume you are the same as you always were. Maybe you are, but maybe you aren’t. Perhaps you’ve seen things you never want to talk about with anyone ever again. Perhaps you’ve experienced violence the likes of which your friends can never imagine. Or, maybe you’ve traveled extensively and discovered a world unlike any you ever imagined before, and the people you made assumptions about aren’t anything like what you thought.

People incorrectly assume that I’m from Ireland and have a horrible temper because I have red hair. I’m not Irish (that I know of, although there was that family story about the Irish maid and the English duke’s son…). I also don’t think I have a horrible temper, but that’s my opinion of myself, and maybe I do from someone else’s perspective. People also make all sorts of assumptions about me because I don’t wear makeup. I have super short hair. I served in the military. I am white and a woman “over a certain age.” I am a Moravian (if they even accurately know what Moravians believe). I work in technology, so I should know everything about tech, you name it. I’m sure you have a laundry list, too, of inaccurate assumptions about who you are, what you think, what you believe, and what you know.

All of this leads me to one piece of advice given to me by one of my sergeants who said, “You know what assume means? It means to make an ass out of you and me.”


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