“Unexplored Assumptions”

I love this cartoon because it perfectly illustrates that we don’t know what we don’t know. All of us generalize from our own experiences and often don’t realize that we have assumed much without realizing it.

A couple of weeks ago I was waiting to see my doctor and I was asked if I minded that a male medical student was accompanying her. I had to laugh. Until I had a woman doctor in my late 50’s I had only ever seen a male doctor. When I read about a doctor I still generally imagine a man until proved otherwise. I grew up surrounded by only male doctors. I had never seen a woman doctor.

Today my generalization might be attacked as a moral failing on my part. Why didn’t I think a woman could be a doctor? But that question misses the point. It wasn’t that I didn’t think a woman could be a doctor. I just had never seen one and therefore didn’t imagine one. Like the fish in the cartoon I had nothing with which to compare my experience.

I wish that we could all acknowledge that our experiences limit our understanding of the world. Instead of attacking each other for failing to respect another point of view, I hope that we could take a deep breath. We might then be able to learn why someone’s experience produced a different understanding than ours. Then we might take the opportunity, as I did, to explain why I was surprised at the question about a male in the exam room. And the 25 year old nurse learned that for a 75 year old woman having a woman doctor was the novel experience.

19 thoughts on ““Unexplored Assumptions”

  1. Great lesson, Elizabeth. So many are quick to judge, often without all of the factors that went into a decision. Diversity and acceptance improve the world—not huddling in our tribe only with people who think like us.


  2. Those who think they know everything often have narrow viewpoints that are based on narrow life experiences. Maybe that’s why they are so sure that everybody else ought to know what they ‘know’.


  3. Yes assumptions travel with us from childhood experiences. I had a female dentist for many years. The first time I went to see her, I wrongly assumed she was the assistant, and asked when the dentist was coming. She smiled and told me she was the dentist, and I felt rather silly, to say the least.
    Now my family doctor is a woman, and I much prfer seeing her to any of her male colleagues.
    Best wishes, Pete.


  4. You can imagine what I thought when they introduced women refs in the National Football League. Yikes, a woman ref? Among those gigantic men? Oh, my😉


  5. Well said, Elizabeth. I never experienced a woman doctor until I was in my 50’s, and a male nurse until I was in my 60’s. Our life experiences certainly limit our understanding of the world.


  6. Well said Elizabeth, it’s all about perceptions & paradigms, with a little patience & understanding we can learn another’s unique experience. Which makes for such an interesting time!
    Blessings, Jennifer


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