Everybody remembers the Terminator movies, right? At first, the Terminator was a "bad guy," and then it was a "good guy." The act of assumption is regarded as the "bad guy." However, if utilized properly, it can be the "good guy." According to dictionary.com, to "assume" means "to take for granted or without proof."
"How," you ask incredulously, "can taking for granted or without proof possibly be a good thing?"
I answer you: to make an assumption based on emotions and/or bias is never a good thing; making an assumption based on reason without bias can be a useful thing. What really spoils the tool of assumption is the insertion of prejudice. What is prejudice? Its an opinion or feeling you have of someone or something before having all the facts or reasons in hand. Prejudice is a negative thing no matter how you decorate it. But assumption can be a different animal altogether---or it can be so heavily based on bias/prejudice that it becomes a twin of it.
Since assumption is inclined more heavily on the negative spectrum in today's world, we'll discuss the positive first (since there is less of it). For assumption to be in any way positive, emotions must exit and reason must enter. When I say "reason," I mean the utilization of thought based on facts, morality, and motive. For reason to be positive, the motive must never be negative, because otherwise your inclination is skewed; once your reasoning is skewed, it becomes biased, and once bias is thrown into the mix, you have a cocaine pill in a Tylenol casing.
Let's start with something simple. Here at work, in the warehouse, I see the concrete floor. I know that this concrete floor is hard and unforgiving, based on this fact: I've dropped things on it, and one of two things happened---either the thing I dropped didn't break, or it did. Never was there a question or incident where the concrete was the victim. This is fact. How I feel about that is irrelevant and useless. Then I look up and see a landing. A thought comes: what would happen if I fell off of it onto the concrete floor. Since I'm not so curious as to go and expiriment, I would have to make an assumption. I assume that if I were to climb those stairs and hurl myself off of that landing, I would splatter on the concrete floor like a stale pie. I have never done this, but I have assumed that this is what would happen. Is that a negative thing? Of course not!
Notice, however, the process of this type of assumption. I saw something which got me thinking about a scenario related to that which I have seen. Unwilling to test this scenario via physical action, I decided to make an assumption. I recalled the facts, and projected a theoretical result for that scenario based on those facts, regardless of my particular feelings about it.
If we use a similar model for utilizing assumption, it can be a beneficial tool. Otherwise, it becomes a catalyst for hate, damage, and even despair.
Not too long ago, I owned a 2002 Subaru Impreza RS. The fact is, when in the hands of many a license-wielding youth, these types of cars become annoying boy-racer toys. I did not convert it into a boy-racer-mobile because I regard them as weak-sauce cars. In any case, the time came to sell this vehicle. I posted it, and soon I received a call from a gentleman who wanted to see it. We met up in the parking lot of a local restaurant. When I saw him, he looked like an average guy wanting to buy a good car. He appeared to be in his mid to late twenties, and acted in a reserved manner. I showed him the car and we talked about it for a few minutes. By his outward appearance and behavior, I assumed that he was not interested in putting pop-cans and huge wings on the back of 120hp cars. So I made a comment which was very similar to this: "Typically, these cars up here are bought by boy-racers with their fart cans and huge wings."
He didn't make any outward gesture that would indicate any distress or offense, but proceeded to calmly tell me that a friend of his was on his way to look at the car. Two minutes later, his buddy pulled up on another Subaru... He was a boy-racer. I immediately apologized to the gentleman about my comment, but he only chuckled and told me not to worry about it. I ended up selling the car, despite my doubts after seeing his friend pull up.
Even though I still made the sale, I very well could have lost the sale and offended the interested party. I used assumption in a careless way. Notice how I made an assumption based on his outward appearance and behavior. As we very well know in this day and age, there are two types of actors: paid actors and unpaid actors. I made an assumption of his interests based on another assumption that he was showing his true character. He very well could have been a hardcore boy-racer like you've never seen.
Making a decision, having a thought, making a statement or comment, or acting on an assumption that's based on another assumption is like using a tangled line to draw a straight line---it never ends well. If I had looked at the facts (I don't know this man, I don't know what his interests are, I don't know what is the real reason behind his interest in this type of car) before making any statements, I would definitely have avoided making that offensive statement (if it was such to him, that is). Fortunately, this situation did not have high risks associated with it, so the consequences would have been minimal.
When it comes to higher risk situations and/or conditions, assumption could really land a hard kick in your testicles. Making an assumption about an individual based on the fact that he is Ukranian (for example), wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing---unless I allowed my personal opinion of that race to weed itself into my decision making or statement making.
My conclusion to this short, brief, and non-exhaustive observation of assumption is that making any assumptions that are not solely based on fact have a high probability of causing negative outcomes. On the other hand, making assumptions that are can avert much needless pain of many sorts. Being human, though, we tend to allow our emotions to influence, if not dictate, our decisions, thoughts, and mouths. Mindlessness and assumption will always result in negative outcomes, while mindfulness and assumption void of bias can many times result in positive outcomes.