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Posts Tagged ‘metacognition’

Assumptions–What do they really make out of you and me?


We’ve all heard the phrase about what assumptions make out of you and me, however, assumptions are something that we all make, hundreds of times every day.


When I step out of bed in the morning I assume there will be a solid floor to meet my feet.  As we go about our day, we assume all kinds of things—that our car will start, that our employers will pay us for our work, that we will get courteous service when we patron a business, that our best friend will keep a confidence.


Assumptions are synonymous with expectations and you can’t help but have them. Usually these expectations  operate quietly in the background as we go about our day. The only time an assumption becomes problematic is when the assumption does not match with reality. When this mismatch occurs it can be anything from mildly upsetting to emotionally devastating. When we count on something or someone to behave in a certain way and it doesn’t happen, it causes us distress. A common example of a more upsetting assumption-reality mismatch is when a spouse is unfaithful.  We expected fidelity and when we get something else it is quite painful.


Many other assumption-reality mismatches aren’t so devastating and can provide an opportunity for insight and self- other exploration.  When you become aware of an assumption-reality mismatch, you have the opportunity to see the thought process that lies beneath it.  What does the assumption reveal?  An underlying sense of entitlement, a negative outlook,  a sense of trust or mistrust, or just a different view? You can then explore more deeply. Where do these underlying beliefs come from–the past, the way we were raised, something we told ourselves about the world a long time ago, our fears or hopes? This can be valuable information.


Is there a solution to assumption-reality mismatch?  How do we avoid making something unpleasant out of you and me? The fact is we can’t really avoid it, but we can become more aware of our own and other’s assumptions.  If you find yourself annoyed with an event or interaction, ask yourself “What were my expectations?  Were they reasonable? Do they serve me? Would I like to change them?”  Once we are aware of how and why we think the way we do, we are free to change those thoughts and patterns if we want to. We are also better able to identify the thoughts and assumptions of others and correct areas of misunderstanding.


© Darlene Kirtley 2011