Challenge Your Assumptions

I witnessed an exchange the other day that got me thinking.

“Excuse me”, said the man to the woman walking by. “No thanks”, she replied.

The man got pretty upset, and shouted after her. “What, do I look like I’m poor or something? I probably have more money than you do!”

Now I have no idea what he actually wanted, because he never added anything else, but clearly they both perceived the situation differently.

He could have wanted to say something nice to her, or to tell her that she’d dropped something. He could have wanted her to sign a petition, or to ask directions. I can think of other possibilities too. And someone asking for money wouldn’t be unusual.

For her part, the girl could have been tired of being approached by strangers, or late for an appointment without time to stop and listen. Or yes, she could have thought he wanted money.

We just don’t know — in that situation and many others — because we all live in our own little worlds.

We make assumptions every day, living our lives based on what we believe is happening. That may or may not have anything to do with what is actually happening.

Some of those every-day assumptions are about money.

We might assume that the company we work for isn’t giving out raises, while our boss assumes we’re happy with our current salary. The reality might be that we could have a raise if we only asked.

We might assume that a bill has been paid, while the company who didn’t receive our payment assumes that we’re a deadbeat. When really, the payment got lost in the mail or applied to the wrong account.

We might assume that we can’t afford to take our dream vacation, when it’s perfectly within reach.

The point is, until we ask or investigate thoroughly, we don’t really know.

So challenge your assumptions. Investigate your options, and make your opportunities.


  • The lesson here is to listen before you speak. Maybe, he was going to help her out.

  • Yup, it could be. (Although, as a woman, I have to say that much of the time people who stop you on the street are not wanting to do something helpful.)

  • I’d say the bigger the city the more likely the woman wouldn’t say anything but just keep going. But your point of challenging our assumptions is very well taken. Sometimes we need to hear another point of view. Too often we don’t want to hear it even from a friend.

  • You only know what you know, and if you always do what you’ve done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. That’s it, I’m out of cliches… :-)
    Seriously though, a constant practice to challenge and ask *why* could be more profitable than just… assuming.

  • Sometimes the hardest part is realizing you don’t know what you don’t know. Three years ago, I couldn’t have told you I needed to learn more about Roth IRAs, because I didn’t know enough to know I should be asking questions, let alone what questions I should be asking.

  • Yes, assumptions are dangerous. There is a whole world of possibilities – and intimidation is just a word. Sometimes it’s easier to choose the familiar than to inch out into the great unknown – where success could most likely be discovered.