Our values are supported by our assumptions of our world. They are beliefs or ideas that we believe and hold to be true. They come about through repetition. This repetition becomes a habit we form and leads to habitual patterns of thinking and doing. We do not realize our assumptions because they are ingrained in us at an unconscious level. We are aware of it when we encounter a value or belief that is different from ours, when it makes us feel that we need to stand up for, or validate, our beliefs.
In the iceberg analogy, assumptions are underneath the waterline. They define for us, and give life or meaning to, objects, people, places, and things in our lives. Our assumptions about our world determine how we react emotionally and what actions we need to take. The assumptions about our world views guide our behaviors and shape our attitudes. Consider, for example, the following case study:
Kong grows up in SE Asia and has seen only males in leadership roles. Once he moves to the U.S., he assumes males are the only authority figures. Meanwhile his daughters, Sheng and Lia, who have grown up in the U.S. and were raised with access to education and resources learn that they can be leaders. In their professional work they are seen by their peers as leaders.
One day, at a celebration event that Sheng brings him to, Kong meets a White man who is her supervisor. He tells Kong, “Your daughter is a great leader. She’s really helped us through this transition.” He replies politely, “Thank you.” Later, Kong shares with his wife, Ka, the story. He says, “I don’t know why he thinks Sheng is a leader. Women are not leaders. Only men are leaders.”