Chapter Two – Assuming


The blind spot of assuming everyone thinks and acts as we do or should is a common and often unrecognized problem. While it is pleasing to find we have much in common with others, it can be a mistake to assume we are the only ones with appropriate views and habits. 

Unfortunately, we may not understand our error. The fact that others can successfully apply different beliefs and methods to cope with life’s problems can come as a shock. Believing our ideas and ways are so fantastic that everyone should think as we will severely limit our opportunities, relationships, and success. Our limited views will likely cause us to reject too many good people and their lifestyles only because they differ from ours. This bias can lead to distrust and alienation, reducing much of our potential for harmony and productivity.

Nothing is wrong with having well-defined beliefs and practices, but trouble begins when we assume we always have the best answers. Sometimes, we may know more than others, but the reverse is also true. After all, we trust the judgment of doctors, plumbers, and lawyers when needed. We should be able to respect the views and habits of others unless they are severely dysfunctional or ignorant and uninformed.

The difficulty in warning people about this blind spot is that most people believe they do not have any. This is why they are called blind spots. Many fail to recognize them even when there is considerable evidence for it. 

Fortunately, all blind spots leave signs of their presence in our behavior and body language. Here are a few of them.

  • We often tend to bond with others more strongly because they dislike what we dislike. We will probably not befriend someone who differs strongly from our preferences in people, lifestyles, politics, and music.  
  • We automatically assume that others who do not think and act like us are somehow inferior.
  • We get uncomfortable when our standards and beliefs are challenged but find it acceptable to criticize the ideas and habits of others. 
  • We are uninterested in most new views and methods because we believe the those we already have are good enough. We can be traditional and rigid in many of our beliefs and ways.
  • We may often make too much of petty differences while overlooking the central themes. Perhaps we tend to specialize in searching for a way to be offended or in discovering microaggressions in those who hold substantially different views. 

Blind spots also affect our spiritual life

The tendency to assume our ways of thinking are or should be universal can strongly impact our spiritual life. This habit is often denied by people who eagerly practice stunning degrees of self-deception about their relationship with God. Common ways this can occur include:

  • We assume God likes what we prefer and disapproves of what we criticize. This broad view comforts various marginal behaviors, dulls our sense of ethics, and reduces our aspirations. This conviction also allows us to excuse our bad temper and impatience because we believe we are using them to support what God wants and reject what God hates.
  • We presume our favored way of establishing a connection to the life of spirit is adequate. For instance, some believe they fulfill all their spiritual responsibilities by attending a worship service, doing a visualization, performing a breathing exercise, or mumbling their manta. 
  • We allow the dark fears of our personality to assume our God disapproves of us as much as we do. Therefore, we must constantly struggle with our sins. The self-rejection and guilt we practice are signs of our spiritual aspirations.
  • We assume our God is the only valid God. The gods of other religions are for misguided pagans who fail to appreciate our superior heroes and prophets and their teachings. 

Impact of this blind spot on society  

The binding force behind all forms of tribalism arises from those who 

automatically assume most “good” people will think, look, and act like us.

This puts them squarely responsible for contributing significantly to developing and maintaining many forms of racism, misogyny, elitism, and other forms of bigotry.

Each of these groups tends to believe in the superiority of their ideals and behavior. They can be persuaded to be less demanding and more moderate, but they usually remain convinced of their preferences. Many fully accept that good people come in all sizes, colors, genders, religions, and classes and still believe they are specially endowed with wisdom. They also can praise equality as a genuine virtue even as they acknowledge that we are not equal in our intelligence, abilities, and many other strengths. 

The blind spot of believing everyone should think and feel as we do can contribute to these difficulties in society.

  • Ignoring the many other common societal factors such as shared struggles, effort, suffering, goals, victories, and satisfaction in personal achievement. 
  • Automatically assuming our differences make us not only incompatible but also enemies. 
  • The automatic assumption that academic degrees are required for important positions because they are more important than experience or common sense

What are the core issues behind this blind spot? 

The lack of curiosity and tunnel vision are two of the most common causes for assuming that everyone should think and act like us. Without a reasonable amount of curiosity, we will likely accept the first explanation that comes to mind—often derived from mass consciousness or tradition. Once we have any kind of answer, additional possibilities are rarely considered.

Tunnel vision is often the simple and restricted view that many prefer. If we look no further than what has been our personal experience and assumptions, we will severely limit our exposure to ideas and lifestyles in the real world. Consequently, there will be fewer possibilities and new ideas to absorb. We will also tend to generalize from our limited experiences and assume we now understand all people and their traditions.  

Our overconfident ego can quickly fill in all the empty spaces in our worldview and understanding. What we do not know will be regarded as unknowable or not worth knowing. Ordinary people and situations will be viewed through a projection of our beliefs and stereotypes. As a result, most of what we notice will reflect and confirm our views. The rest will be rejected or ignored. Unless we recognize this distortion of reality with a fierce commitment to intellectual honesty and thoroughness, we may sink deeper into intense self-absorption. 

How can we heal this blind spot?

Pursuing effectiveness and excellence in our lives will be challenging if we are blinded by the assumption that what we already know is correct and complete. Better methods and plans will often be overlooked because we falsely believe we already have better solutions. 

The basic principle for healing blind spots is the conviction that familiar traditions must not become the enemy of innovation and progress. Likewise, our desire to disprove alternate views must not stop us from discovering what is valuable and effective. Great ideas come in all sizes, colors, and ages, just like people. We must be open to welcoming new views and methods for ourselves. 

We can increase our ability to recognize better ideas by challenging some of our preferred beliefs. We might start by reviewing some of the concepts and policies we may have rejected too quickly. Or we might ask ourselves if we have missed something that might lead to improvement or greater efficiency. Other times, we must speculate whether we have the right priorities for our daily tasks. These are the types of challenges that can stir up better solutions and answers. 

Beware that we do not allow a single point of difference to destroy a valuable friendship or partnership. We should be able to agree to disagree about specific policies or people to preserve good working relationships with others. 

Finally, we realize that others may make absurd assumptions about us. Let us correct them if necessary, and then follow with being more tolerant of them in hopes that they will return the favor.


People vary widely in their specific beliefs and types of behavior. We will make huge mistakes about others unless we deal with these differences with common sense and tolerance. We must study the value of their preferences and behavior from the perspective of their obligations, abilities, and role in life, not ours. Analyzing others on this basis will help us establish harmonious relationships.

These recommendations do not mean we must become permissive or indifferent about everyone and what they do. Of course, we all need to follow the basic principles of decency, accountability, integrity, and productivity, but we must also know when our beliefs and standards are only for personal use. These choices are a highly personal matter, but once we make them, it will do much to calm our agitation and improve our ability to respect and work with others.  

Points to ponder

1. Can we conceive that many good people can have beliefs that differ from ours? Must they think like us about all situations vital to us?

2. Do we truly want to choose our friends by insisting they reject the same people and policies we dislike? 3. Are we more devoted to defending our current beliefs than seeking to refine and add to our understanding?

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