ASSUME: Makes An Ass Of You And Me

Posted: January 25, 2014

Has your long-awaited promotion or pay-hike gone to a colleague who is less-qualified? Maybe you could check if that person is taller, trimmer or good-looking.

This study in March 2013, found that tall or good-looking persons, persons who worked out or were slim, women who wore make-up (among other criteria) stood to earn more money. Apparently blondes earn more and very pretty women earn less.

But are these prejudices limited to pecuniary or monetary considerations?

I recently spoke to a friend who said that since she is single, people assumed that she is also unhappy and lonely.

“She speaks English with a vernacular accent, so she is incapable/ stupid” is another ‘ass’umption. I have seen instances where persons who are professionally capable, but unable to speak English with the requisite flair are bypassed for jobs and other opportunities.

“He belongs to a particular community/race, so he is an anti-social element.”

Statistically shaky, so this is an ill-informed comment.

“That girl is good-looking, so she must be dumb.”

The list goes on.

How often have we judged someone’s trustworthiness and capability based on flimsy criteria?

Doctors face this as well. I have found that wearing a conservative Indian dress and sporting gray hair and spectacles mean that certain patients take you seriously.

Would we trust the scruffy engineer or clean-shaven computer geek, who defy stereotype?

Time and again, I come across people who make patronizing assumptions, which surely point to their own asinine mental capability.  Short dress means slut, excessive hand gestures equals gay, single signals available, or whatever.


In prehistoric times, where split second judgements meant life or death, this was a natural fight-or-flight reflex for survival. But today, this irritating human habit is  an extension of the speed-of-light manner in which we live our lives. The fast car, speedy escalator, 30-minute oven-to-mouth delivery, fast-cash ATMs, quick–heat foods, T-20 cricket; things that need to be done faster than a snap of one’s fingers. Ergo, the addiction to short interactions, quick solutions and rapid decisions.

Mark Twain said, “You cannot depend on your judgement when your imagination is out of focus.” Judgmental people have no imagination.

They meet someone and slot them into a category, ticking boxes in a mental checklist. Compelled to fill out the list, they categorize the person instantly. One cursory look and we begin -rich or poor, gay or straight, happy or sad, good or bad, smart or dumb.

Somewhere along the line, we hyphenate our criteria for EVEN speedier slotting. Fair-and-lovely or dusky-and- ugly, happy- and- married or unhappy- and- single, dumb-and- pretty or smart- and-severe-looking and so on.  So busy are we in categorization that we do not take the time to truly know the person.

For example, a girl of my acquaintance denied consent to an arranged match because she objected to the way the proposed “boy” sipped his tea in a saucer, a ‘down-market’ habit.


Due to habitual fast-tracking , rarely is time taken out to savour an experience, relish a taste or aroma, enjoy a melody, read a poem over and over again to discover a previously missed nuance, enjoy a sunset or admire a pretty flower.

But, by making judgements about people, we are doing greater harm. As a parent, our attitude could create another human being with the same approach to life.

As a boss/ professional/colleague, we may deny some worthy person the chance of a lifetime because of our preconceived notions.

Policemen have arrested persons because they are the most “likely” (based on community, social strata) persons for the crime.

Image consultants are thriving because of our modern quick-fix needs. Our response to a certain appearance, manner, spoken phrases are so well studied, that we can be bamboozled into liking, choosing, voting for certain persons based on these criteria.

But, let us not forget that while we are busy judging someone, someone is being judgmental about us as well. Unfortunate, is it not?

Have you been the victim of this kind of snap judgement?

I am Ujwala Shenoy Karmarkar. I love reading, meeting people, listening to music, watching plays,

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  1. Yes..we are all quick to make assumptions…the obstetrician who delivered my baby was in her early 30s and was slim, pretty and wore sleeveless clothes…i was happy with her and had no MIL who came to see the baby wasn’t convinced at all seeing her..she blamed my C-Sec on her!!!!!!! She felt the doctor was too stylish..the day she saw her happened to be Diwali and the Doc was all dressed up and dropped in just to check on me…

  2. It is human nature to be judjmental. However to judje someone or to make assumptions without evidence is wrong.SKM

  3. While i am busy disciplining my child with good habits, good manners and the most important of being respectful and non violent, i see/hear few people assuming rather passing a judgement that he would grow up becoming a coward and less confidante person. I am too surprised to come across such judgements which are so baseless and absolutely unwelcomed…
    People are so quick to judge a home maker, they think she has all the free time in life and is also assumed to be a boring personality. At the same time, they themselves are too scared to take up such an important responsibility of looking after the family and house and end up compromising on lot of things that would add great value to the true relations and end up delegating tasks and so called achieving it…
    Truely, lets not be so judgemental. Yes, I agree with Ujwala, it can cause great harm…

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