Assumptions are made all the time. After the facts are gathered, they are proven to be true or false. The fireworks start when people act on an assumption without waiting for the facts. They never look for possible explanations.  Rather, they draw nonsensical conclusions.  And they act on them.

Like the nursing home attendants who took care of an elderly friend of mine. They came to the conclusion she was uncooperative.  person wearing hearing aidThey never stopped to consider that maybe she did not understand the request to move to the other side of the bed.  So they forcefully lifted her over.  One look at my friend’s face and I could tell that she never understood what was being asked of her.  When I checked to see if her hearing aids were being worn, I found them in the off position.  She never heard the request.  They made an assumption without the facts.  And they acted on it.

My daughter was recently asked what it is like having a late-deafened mom.  She said she wished more people understood hearing loss.  She told about the time we were skiing together and I never realized the chair lift attendant told me to have a nice day.  When I did not respond he whispered under his breath “bitch”. He assumed I heard him say ” have a nice day” and that I ignored his good wishes.  He never looked for a possible explanation as to why I did not respond.  When it was my daughter’s turn to board the lift she told the attendant that I was deaf.  He made an assumption without the facts.  And he acted on it.

I will be the first to admit I have made assumptions and have acted on them before I waited for the facts to roll in.  It is kind of easy to do.  We respond to events based on the meaning we attribute to the event.  We make errors in reasoning and we fail to look at alternative explanations.  Deafness has made me much more sensitive to this issue.  I have felt the pain when assumptions were made that my failure to respond meant that I was stubborn, stupid, rude, or shy, when the fact is I could not hear.  Assumptions without facts can be hurtful.  Especially, when people act on them.

(A reprint of an article I wrote 20 years ago, when I was the founding President of ALDA-Suncoast of Florida, a support group for people who have become deaf.  The article appeared in the newsletter, ALDA-Sun. At the time, I was going back to school to change professions from being a foreign language teacher to becoming a mental health counselor.)