The Power of Assumption

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“Assumptions are dangerous things.”
– Agatha Christie

Assumptions in any kind of relationship, romantic or otherwise, can cause an unnecessary amount of friction and conflict that doesn’t need to be there.People bring the power of assumption into their everyday life and interactions with people, whether it’s at work, school, home, and anywhere else throughout life.

Think about it.People come from all kinds of different backgrounds and life experiences.Do people have the exact same family dynamic and household while growing up?Does everyone have the same experiences in prior relationships?Of course not.But, how do these differences then impact our relationships as we grow up?All of these different life experiences shape the person that we are and what we then interpret the different things that are done or said to us to mean to us.

We interpret things on our own, with our own baggage, and make assumptions

The power in that is that there’s far greater disconnection and conflict in relationships where there are partners that make assumptions about one another.Assumptions can be about anything, from what they say and do, to what they’re thinking and how they feel. Our own life experiences form our assumptions about others that we are with and the result is that we make judgments about the other – – both good and bad judgments.

Think back on a time that someone you care deeply for said something that you immediately got offended by and got upset. What did you do? Did you lash out and start an argument with that person? Or maybe, instead, you withdrew and gave them the silent treatment? Regardless of what you did, the truth of the matter is that you took what this person you cared about said to you and made your assumptions about their intentions and what he or she actually meant by making those comments, placed a meaning to them, and then placed judgment towards that person for what they said. Instead of seeking understanding and peaceful resolution with that person, you disconnect and only encouraged conflict with that person.

We’ve all done this at some point in our lives. The important step is to recognize when you are making assumptions in your relationships and interactions with people and find a way to redirect the immediate response to want to make assumptions and jump to conclusions.

Here are three things that you can do differently to help you avoid conflict that can result from the power of assumption:

  1. CHECK YOURSELF
    The first step is to ask yourself if your reaction or response is reasonable.  Do you have all of the facts?  Are you making an unfair assumption? Is your assumption reasonable and realistic to be true?  You will find more often than not, your assumption is not true and your reaction is exaggerated to address this untrue assumption.
  2. WHAT DO YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH?
    Is it more important to be right?  Does it feel good to “win”?  Who is really winning when both parties are at odds, aren’t speaking, or are talking badly and venting about one another to others?  Or, would you rather develop a healthy, deeper relationship with this person that doesn’t involve this conflict and chaos?
  3. RE-ENGAGE
    Most conflicts can be avoided by simply asking, rather than assuming.  Take the time to talk to the person you’re interacting with, ask questions, tell them what you’re thinking and feeling and give them the opportunity to clarify.  Isn’t that a fair way to treat people?  Isn’t that how you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed?

Practicing these three habits will help you avoid a lot of the harm that assumptions can cause in relationships. But, it’s not an easy habit to break. Many of us have been doing this all of our life. We carry around the pain and baggage that comes from our past with us wherever we go. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or to feel badly about. Being aware of your own behavior is the first step towards correcting this behavior. The next step is to seek the outside of help of a licensed therapist who can help you identify why you do this and how to work through the thoughts and feelings that we have and hopefully work on developing healthy behaviors to encourage the development of healthy relationships without the judgments and assumptions.

If you want to learn more about how the power of assumptions can affect relationships, book an appointment with Caree Brown L.C.S.W. Psycotherapy.  She can help you work through and find the root of the problem then offer ways to tackle the issue one step at a time.