Generalizations and Projection

Generalizations are dangerous.

“All Christian’s believe _________.”

“Every Republicans supports ________.”

“I am always thinking about ways to become rich and famous.”

I try not to use generalizations. When I do, it’s generally intentional. But the reason I wanted to write about generalizations is not in relation to my goal to only use them when they’re absolutely applicable, but to express a frustration I have, particularly on Facebook, when other users read generalizations in between the lines.

For example, the other day I responded to post about something going on the world with a contentious figure (see one of my posts from yesterday). I’d compared person A with person B saying that person B engaged in many of the same behaviors of person A. Someone immediately replied and assumed I’d said, “Person B is just like person A because they engage in “all” the same behaviors thus have “all” the same character traits. Generally (there I go using the word again, but in this context it means “usually” or “often” not “almost all of the time” or “always”), I’d respond in one of two ways.

Sober response when I’m an average mood: Recognize they’ve generalized which generally (in this case I mean “nearly always”) means they didn’t take the time to read my literal post but instead injected a biased world view and any response I ultimately result in me banging my head against their static world view which results in me skipping forward with my life.

Sober response when I’m in a moody-mood: Point out that what I’d written was not what they’d read then spend a fair amount of time articulating the same idea in a more comprehensive manner.

One or two drams of ye old spirits response: Call out their presumptions in technical, reiterate my original point in a short and direct manner, then possibly write a detached and unhinged gripe on the wall.

So really this is a moral tale about paying attention to when other people project their own generalizations about us as individuals. In an upcoming entry I plan to explore the idea that while viewing the world with generalizations can help us understand it better, it limits our ability to think straight and extend fairness and an open mind to others.

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