Haha, cheeky post title, no? Sorry, gang, but I’m not talking about the last time I tried on bathing suits at the store (although “load” and “booty” sure came into play then, along with some very choice language that would make sailors blush, and a slight panic that I’d become a sumo wrestler over the winter). But enough about cheeks. Today’s post isn’t so much about our asses as it is about our assumptions. Samuel L. Jackson has this to say about assumptions.

Now I’m betting that 99% of us have had that eternal moment after the words leave your mouth but just as you realize how very, very wrong they will sound once they hit another person’s ears. Most of the time, that comes from our assumptions (and is a prime source for accidentally showing our asses in public situations). It’s the point where we have forgotten that our collective life experience has come through our eyes, and our eyes only. And that even your identical twin, standing right next to you for your entire life, would still have a perspective that’s about eighteen inches to the left or right of you and therefore not the same.

Realistically, of course, our perspectives (even those of identical twins) are utterly unique in vastly different ways, from the big ways of upbringing and external influences, right down to the reactions evoked by the scent of cooking cabbage.

I’ll give a less ass-tastic example. Like many of you, I cannot stop listening to Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” (the video is below, but don’t watch until you read this). I will assume that many of you have heard it, at least on the radio, given the way radios the world over are slowly being rolled up into a scant handful of media conglomerates who also own recording artists and the industries feed into each other. But when I heard the song, my assumptions caused me to picture her in my mind in a certain way. She is NOT AT ALL how I pictured her, and I wanted to think about the reasons why.

I pictured Adele as a very slender African-American girl from the south–someplace sultry, like the Carolinas or Georgia. Some of the reasons why I pictured her this way are because of the song style–it’s blues, which has its roots firmly in the American south, her backup singers on the song give it a Motown-like sound that makes me think of the great 60’s African-American girl groups like the Supremes, and the way she carries her extended notes makes me think of Diana Ross doing “Ain’t No Mountain HIgh Enough.” So I pictured an updated version of Diana circa the 70’s, with a striking look to match her striking voice.

Well, did I ever get a shock once I looked her up. Adele is buxom, British, and blonde.

She’s stunningly beautiful in her own unique way, and once I saw her perform, her voice totally made sense coming out of her body, but up until then, she could have passed me on the street and spoken to me, and I’d never have had a clue.

My good friends in NLP call it “the map is not the territory” (which could have been a better title for this post, but come on–I couldn’t pass up a chance for such an awesome title, could I? #amtwelve ). They mean that our perceptions are not The Truth. The larger understanding is that we must work together to see a more complete version of the truth. There’s three sides to every story–yours, mine, and Ours.

We operate with our sets of pre-suppositions and they steer us towards assumptions and value judgments of one kind or another. How that ties to writing is that when you have awareness of your assumptions about character traits, actions, behaviors, and value systems, you understand that others will not have the same assumptions. You can lead them to share your assumptions–at least for the duration of the story–by showing your assumptions about the consequences of the characters’ actions.

Links to Make ASSumptions of Ourselves

Maps & Territories in NLP, and how they are used

Adele: Rolling in the Deep

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