Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Reflections on Presumptions as the Basis for Forming Judgments

Making presumptions about people, with limited access to detailed knowledge, can be a very negative thing.  And yet it seems to be something that many people in many situations do exactly this. 

Without thought, without reflection, they assume they understand a situation or a person and then they pass judgement based on their limited knowledge. 
Now if it stopped there it might not be so bad.  If they remained open minded that new information might lead to a different conclusion, and then remained willing to listen to new input and willing to change their judgment based on this new input, then things still might remain salvageable.  However the common path is to pass judgment and then turn off the ears and the thought process and the mind and remain in the stagnant waters of preconceived prejudices based on incomplete knowledge. 

This is where presumptions and judgments can indeed be a very negative thing.    When presumption becomes fact in spite of contrary evidence and judgement is passed based incomplete knowledge or even the desire to gather more complete knowledge, then it is possible to become stubbornly closed minded. 

-           To pass judgement ends communication and the search for the greater truth. 
-           To pass judgement creates a barrier to understanding. 
-           Sometimes the passing of a judgments stops the process of finding out the “rest of the story”, the “other point of view”, the “extenuating circumstances” or even if the original story was a fabrication or lie to begin with.

Making presumptions and passing judgment becomes an ending.  Whereas, open-minded awareness is a beginning; leading to learning and discovery.

For example, something much in the media these days is the concept of “narcissism”.  The term is seen everywhere.  We see spouses, and parents and children being accused of being narcissistic.  And the communication stops there. 

Often judgement is passed “that person is narcissistic and therefore they are bad and therefore they must be avoided or shunned as toxic” and the door to understanding the complexities of human interactions is closed.   And what if the accusation was made based on someone else’s lies, someone with an agenda to destroy another person’s reputation?  What if there was a situation that required the person to act in a self-preserving manner that was then labeled as narcissistic?  What if there was a totally different issue playing out one where the other side of the story was vitally important to understanding the real nature of the situation?
  • In today’s age we are prone to making assumptions and to passing judgement based on articles we read as though reading those articles makes us experts and competent to do so. 
  • In today’s age we draw parallels between our situations and other people’s situations and then we presume to know all the players in someone else’s life story based on our affinity with one person.
  • In today’s age we try to encapsulate input and make it fit our prejudices and presumptions and sometimes we end up with a completely false understanding which we then promote as the truth when in fact it is only our opinion.

In my resolution of avoid negativity in my life I am learning that I must be very careful to not draw conclusions, to make assumptions or to pass judgement. 

  • I can form opinions based on my learning and my knowledge. 
  • I can continue to further my gathering of knowledge to see if my hypothesis withstands the test of time. 
  • I can seek to understand extenuating circumstances and the “other side of the story” and remain open-minded to changing my mind based on what I learn.

I must also be aware that even when people speak as though they know, it could very well be that they don’t know, that they have only made assumptions and passed judgments, either because they do not know any better or because they fear what may be revealed if they do seek beyond their limited experience.
I must be aware that those who most stubbornly stick to a one sided point of view are to be distrusted for their very close-mindedness and judgmentalism, for as they judge others, so will they judge me. 

I need to be aware that sometimes judgmentalism stems from a place of “needing to be right at all costs” and that people with this deep need to be right will surely strive diligently to find a way to try to convince me that I am wrong to preserve their sense of order. 

So while I will strive to keep the negativity of assumptions and judgment out of my life, I will at the same time be aware that not everyone sees these qualities as negative.  In accepting that I will meet all kinds of people in my life, I will be selective about who I allow into my life and most closely guard who I will allow into my inner circle.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 - 12 - 02 

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