Assumption Is Making An A$$ Of Me

Steven Seagal is one of my favorite action-movie heroes of all time.  In Under Siege 2, the head terrorist asks one of his henchmen if they actually saw Casey Ryback’s body (Seagal) after being shot by a sniper.  The henchman replies “no” and that he “assumed”…then SLAP!  The head terrorist slaps him across the face and says “Assumption is the mother of all F@%#-ups!”

I’ve been assuming a lot lately.  Maybe because I’m getting older, more impatient, trying to fill in the blanks faster…whatever it is, I’ve been way off on my assumptions lately.

Assumption: Something taken for granted or accepted as true without proof; a supposition.

In the past two weeks, I told my wife two minor but funny things that were way off-base.

For some reason we were talking about Hall and Oates.  One of our goals is to eventually catch a Hall and Oates concert.  I told her (in my informed and know-it-all voice) that a concert would probably not happen anytime soon because Hall and Oates were involved in an altercation.  Well, we come to find out it was Hall and Oates all right…but not the singing duo!  Seriously though, what are the chances that two guys off the street involved in a fight share the same names as a legendary singing duo?


Then during Sunday breakfast, I was reading an article about Cote de Pablo, who plays special agent Ziva David on CBS’s NCIS.  Again, in my informed and know-it-all voice, I told my wife that Cote de Pablo was a former Mossad officer.  WRONG AGAIN.  Pablo plays a former Mossad officer on the show.  What, de Pablo doesn’t sound Jewish?

These are funny little examples, but they still bothered me.  In these two instances, my wife actually called me on it.  No big deal – we both got good laughs.  But what if it had been something really important, like a critical project at work or something having to do with me or my family’s health?  Would I ignore instructions, presume I had enough information, or proceed without obtaining the full story?  In other words, would I make an ass of myself?

I’m not talking about analysis paralysis where it takes you two weeks to decide on the perfect vacation spot (although I’ve done that, too).  I’m talking about jumping to conclusions and acting out without having all of the pertinent information and/or critical facts.  When I see tragedies like someone falling off a cliff because they ignored the “Do Not Enter” sign or freezing to death because they got lost in the mountains by driving through a fenced-off area, I think, is it because they assumed everything would be OK?

More often than not, though, we’re not talking about life-or-death consequences.  But assumptions can still lead us down the path of embarassment.  So how do we avoid making assumptions?

Double-check your facts: Sounds simple enough.  But in today’s world where speed is everything and we need stuff right now, double-checking only slows down the process – or so we think.  Be disciplined enough to stop and review the facts again if you’re not sure.  Chances are the extra time you take won’t affect anything.  Re-read or review the information.

Listen to your voice: You know, the one that says, “This doesn’t sound or feel right.”  Chances are your intuition is 100% right.  I should have listened to my intuition before signing the contract for a brand new truck – at 19% APR.  Again, another example of assuming everything is OK. (I mean, the dealer wouldn’t try to rip off a college kid, right?)


Ask and Clarify: Pride usually prevents us from these two things.  The classic example is men not asking for directions when clearly lost.  If you don’t fully understand what is being presented to you, no one is going to think you’re stupid for asking.  I remember working on a project all day at work only to find I did it all wrong.  I wasted eight hours of time and effort on something that could have been resolved in five minutes – if only I would have asked.

What’s the risk?  No one’s going to get hurt because I was wrong on Hall and Oates and Cote de Pablo.  However, there are potentially serious consequences involved when it comes to certain things like medication or even personal safety.  So before assuming “I’ve taken this type of medication before, I can take double the dosage” or “This doesn’t look like the safest neighborhood to take a shortcut in but I’m in a hurry” determine the risk-reward.

When was the last time you made a bad assumption?

Post your comments below.

  • Donalyn

    You mentioned meds. Stan had a severe cold and actually wanted to take something for it (hey, it doesn’t make him less of a man!). He called his cardiologist to ask what he was allowed to take and was given two options, both of which he bought. Now, this doc knows all about Stan’s Parkinson’s and which drugs he takes for that. So one would ASSUME that the doc would have taken all drugs into consideration, right? Checked the patient’s file? At the last minute, literally, Stan decided to read the precautions on the label of the one he decided to take. Yep, you guessed it….it specifically mentions Parkinson’s and warns against using it.