So, You Think You Know, Huh?
Assumptions are great tools -- I mean, think about it: we all make them all the time -- right up until they become misconceptions. One of my favorite assumptions about me is that I am a Chicago Bears fan. Granted, I work in a Chicago suburb, so when people hear I am a professional football fan, they assume I must be a Bears fan. The truth, of course, couldn't be further from the truth: I grew up, and again live, in the great state of Wisconsin. It's practically a state law that Wisconsin residents be Green Bay Packers fans, and it's a mandate I happily live with. I grew up in a household of ferocious Packers fans, and that fervor has been passed on to my generation and beyond. Even my cat sports Packers wear on Sundays.
Assumptions that are based on misinformation or misunderstandings become misconceptions. Some misconceptions are harmless: If someone assumes -- wrongly -- that I am a Bears fan, for example, I just clear up the misunderstanding and talk about all the things I love about the Pack. (They're probably sorry they ever mentioned it by the time I shut up!) Other misconceptions are anything but harmless: Terrible incidents have happened because someone assumed that the oven had been purged or the power turned off. Then there are those in between: No one gets seriously hurt because of the misconception, but a decision is made based on bad information. In some cases, the best possible course is not taken because of a misconception, but the course that is followed is adequate for the job.