Judgment 101: Go on Impressions Not Assumptions

impressions not assumptions

Today’s big idea is that a lot of our judgy thoughts come from assumptions. We size someone or something up by filling in a lot of blanks in our own mind and then putting those assumptions in a category of bad, or good. It’s better to go on impressions not assumptions.

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It’s like yesterday, when I left the house my daughter was watching a show on her laptop. I was gone for a few hours, and when I came back, she was watching a show on her laptop. I assumed that she had been watching the entire time I was gone. So I said, Hon, it’s time to get off the computer. But she informed me that she’d been off it most of the time I was gone. She’d walked the dog, straightened her hair, made herself some lunch. She’d just gotten back on. I was all hot to trot, thinking she’d been hooked up to the matrix for hours, but it wasn’t true. 

We do it all the time

While you may know that to assume makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me,” are you aware of how many blanks you subconsciously fill in every day? Whenever you decide that the driver in front of you is an idiot or that your spouse’s silence means she’s mad, you mistake opinion for fact.

There’s a way out of this

And that’s to go on impressions not assumptions. Of course, first you need to notice that you’re jumping to a judgment, and if you’re not sure how to do that, go back and listen to yesterday’s episode. 

Once you see what’s going on, make it your goal to make fewer assumptions about other people. Because assumptions are generally fairly judgmental and often incorrect. Instead, aim to gather impressions  not an assumptions of the other person. What does her eye contact, body language, and overall state of being communicate? 

In my example, I could have noticed that my daughter did not have that glazed look in her eye; or that her dishes were in the sink; or that her hair looked totally different. But I didn’t do any of that. 

Forming an impression requires you to be observant and receptive

And being observant and receptive has the added bonus of helping you be present, in this moment, which is very soothing to your nervous system, because otherwise you’re probably thinking some stressful thoughts about what’s already happened or what’s about to happen. Also, when you’re in the moment and open and observant, you can actually take in a lot of information—visual information, and physical information, yes, but also you can read energy better. And that’s really valuable information to have. It helps you approach the world from a less cerebral, and, let’s face it, judgy place. 

Daily Tiny Assignment

So that’s your tiny assignment. To focus on gathering impressions not assumptions of a person or a situation in the next 24 hours, and resist the urge to jump straight to an assumption. Just let the jury be out for a for moments while you pause long enough to observe and listen. It can keep you from getting stuck in a knee-jerk judgmental reaction. And that feels really good. 

Stay Awhile!

Come back tomorrow when I’m interviewing Suzanne Kingssbury, creator of the Gateless Writing Method, which combines neuroscience, psychology, and Zen Buddhism to help you get past the gates of your judgy inner critic and tap into your most creative work. I LOVED this conversation, and I’m super excited to share it with you.


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