Imagine you’re shopping at Costco with your lovely little wife unit.

There are free samples, yay!

She takes a little cup with some popcorn in it.

The young “man” (I use this term loosely) running this operation bows with hands together and obnoxiously says, “Ni hao ma!”

This means “How are you?” in Mandarin Chinese.

My wife is of Asian descent, but she’s not Chinese.

Did I teach him a lesson in respect?

Almost.

I wasn’t nearby when it happened—she told me after the fact.

My initial thoughts about this person weren’t very kind.  Then I realized that he may not have been trying to be deeply offensive to the person I care about more than anyone in this world.

He probably assumed she was Chinese and (maybe?) thought he was being clever.

Assumptions.

Making asses out of you and me since humans became a thing.

We all do it.

All.

The.

Damn.

Time.

Assumptions precede conscious thought on a subject, creating a starting point from which we move forward with our thought processes.

And that’s the problem.

This leaping off point for our thoughts is often far from the beginning of where we should start our cognitive journey.

Instead of starting closer to mile 1, we start at mile 12, missing numerous turn offs, sign posts, and attractions along the way.

There is an inverse relationship between the number of assumptions we operate under and the number of options we can act on.

I say, “we can act on” because we often do have more options. It’s just that we can’t access them because of our mental blind spots.

Assuming is fundamental to being human. Knowing we carry this handicap, we must take countermeasures.

We must always assume that we are making some assumptions!

How do we cut through this inherent and persistent delusion?

Question everything. Especially what you take to be self-evident.

This will not come naturally. It must be practiced and formed into habit.

Whenever you begin a line of inquiry (or open your mouth), ask yourself, “Am I starting at the beginning? On what foundation am I basing these questions and choices?”

This will open more possibilities and hopefully prevent you from putting your foot in your mouth.