NOVEMBER 22, 2020

Assumptions are dangerous things.

-Agatha Christie

A few months back, I read the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. It was an enthralling read that projected many novel perspectives about our history’s key events and people. It presented an in-depth analysis of human psychology and its development through multiple millennia. As it ends, it gives the reader a deep understanding of how we ended up where we are today.

From the historical perspective, Sapiens is a great read, but from a psychological perspective, it is an excellent read as well. When I read that book, Harari’s straightforward manner of stating things hooked me, and when I finished the book, I reflected on it, and I found something worth sharing.

The first part of the book talks about the cognitive revolution that humans underwent. It was the first step that separated us from animals; we should know when it would have happened, right? But, no. We still do not know precisely when this happened. However, when this did happen, it led to the formation of some complex societies way before we settled down into villages due to the agricultural revolution.

Does this seem a little absurd to you? Do you fully believe that complex societies and social constructs could have existed when we were foragers? Maybe, no. But the truth is that social constructs did exist. Humans communicated with each other and responded to situations on an emotional level to ensure the highest survival. People generated feelings of love, hate, and friendship in their tribes and defended it when it was in danger. They even made jewelry and gave proper burials to the deceased. This all doesn’t match up with our image of early humans.

When we think of early humans, we mostly compare them to monkeys and chimpanzees and believe that this was how they acted, but it was quite different in reality as we know. This fact stumped me as well and engaged another chain of thought in me. I wondered, “Even seasoned historians don’t know the minute and significant details about how early humans lived, then how can we simply assume and believe that they lived like chimpanzees and other animals before getting into the agricultural revolution?”

This question led to the formation of this post. And I am sharing it with you all because I found a satisfactory answer—we are too judgmental. Yes, as simple as that. We think that early humans lived like chimpanzees because we judge their position and assume that our judgment is correct, without any real factual basis for proving that. This is just one such case where we become too judgmental, but when I reflected on this, I was astounded by the fact that this trait affected our lives in a significant manner.

We are continually judging when we see something, meet someone, discuss something, and question someone or something. What is your first reaction when you see someone driving a cheap hatchback next to a person who is driving a Mercedes? You would think that the Mercedes person is rich, while the person in the hatchback isn’t; this is an assumption of yours. But, what if I told you that the person driving the Mercedes was someone’s chauffeur who earned a meager salary, but the person in the hatchback was going to the car dealership to buy a brand-new Mercedes. Now, would you think of the person driving the Mercedes to be rich or driving the hatchback to be rich? You would think that the person in the hatchback is rich. Why did your opinion change? Because you came to know about the financial situation of both of them.

This is the problem with assumptions. When we directly assume something to be true without understanding its depth, we can be wrong, but we like to think that we are right. Only when our opinion or assumption is questioned or proved false is that we get into the details and understand the truth.

Just like anything else, when we assume or think about something, it takes mental energy. If we were to form assumptions about many different things and people in a single day, it would drain a lot of our mental energy. But, if we have an open mind and try to understand things first without forming judgments, we will then be able to become more efficient and save some time and energy.

When you assumed which person is rich, you would have given your mental energy to find out that luxury cars are expensive, and therefore the person driving the more expensive car will be rich. You gave your time and energy to find this out, but did it benefit you? Not at all. So, you wasted your time and energy on assuming something that was never true. One of your most important assets is time, and if you waste it on judgments and assumptions, you are doing nothing but burning your own money.

Assumptions decrease our efficient use of time and create false truths for us, and when they shatter, they affect us. It also applies to the conflicts we have with the people around us. Let’s say that an employee of yours was late and said to you, “Sorry. I overslept today.” You are agitated, and you reply, “I don’t pay you for oversleeping! Get to work now!” Then another employee comes up to you and is also late. You assume that this person even overslept and when he comes in and says, “Sorry. I am late—” you cut him off in between and shout at him, saying, “I don’t pay you for oversleeping! Get to work now!” The employee says, “But, I did not oversleep. I had to take my mother to the hospital. That is why I am late.” Your assumption shatters right then and there.

When you assume something about someone, you are doing nothing but creating false truths that are likely to be shattered and create problems in relationships. When you assume something, you are likely to have a close mind, and you will not be able to learn and understand someone else’s truths and perspectives. But when you have an open mind and don’t assume or judge what someone else is going to do or say, then you will be able to save energy, time, and the bond in your relationships.

From this in-depth breakdown of assumptions that I did in my mind some time ago, I realized that the tendency to assume things is one of the most significant barriers that stagnate our growth and expansion. An open mind ready to accept all views is like a straightforward path to success, growth, and self-development. When we drop all judgments and decide to form conclusions only after understanding something, we will significantly decrease the tension and conflicts that we face in our relationships. Maybe, we will be able to find exactly how it is that our ancestors lived!

I hope that this blog was an excellent read for you! I would love to know about the lessons or the values you learned from this post because I am always ready to accept new perspectives and think about them! If you have any questions or feedback regarding this topic, you can pin it down in the comments or send it to me directly via email or my social media handles!

I am looking forward to hearing from you!

Well wishes,