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December 04, 2012

Assumptions and How They Hurt Relationships

IStock_0pensivewomanllPeople make assumptions about other people all the time.  We assume we know what others are really thinking, why they’re doing the things they’re doing and what they really mean, rather than what they say they mean.  The problem with making assumptions is that we almost always assume the negative.

Too often we jump to a conclusion that is not only wrong, but also often hurtful.  For example, if our children are not responding to us, we quickly assume that they’re rude and disrespectful.  If our partner is quiet and sullen, we assume they’re mad at us, relationally inept or impossible to talk with.  If a parent gives us feedback, we assume it’s because all they see in us is the negative.  Seldom do we assume positive intentions.

In everyday life we make assumptions all the time about other people.  Although there may be times when our assumptions are correct, the reality is that, more often than not, they are incorrect…and strongly negatively slanted.  For example, my friend Steve told me about a time when his child was gushing blood from his head and needed to get to the hospital fast.  Steve got his son in the car and went as fast as he could to the hospital.  On the way, he had to pass a car going incredibly slowly.  The driver of the other car proceeded to honk, give my friend the finger and yell a few choice words at him.  Steve felt bad that the guy was so mad and wished he could tell him why he had to get in front of him.  I remember thinking at the time about all the cars I’ve been annoyed with that I assumed were just obnoxious people driving selfishly…hmmm.  While I’m sure not all of them were driving a loved one to the hospital, I don’t know how many people were caught in a bad day, were afraid of losing their jobs, just found out their partner had an affair and on and on.


When it comes to the behaviors of others, remember that you truly do NOT know what’s going on in their head—even when you are “sure” you do.  If you’re assuming something about someone in your life, at least give him or her the courtesy of checking out your assumptions.  The worst that can happen is that they tell you you’re right—in which case it’s no longer an assumption, but a fact.  Know that when it comes to interpreting or assuming why others are doing what they’re doing, our lens is clouded.  Our assumptions are highly negatively skewed and that negative slant greatly hurts our relationships.  Sometimes the behavior of others just simply isn’t about us.

Make room for a different story and check it out with the other person.  You may just be pleasantly surprised.

Challenge: Watch the assumptions, interpretations and meanings you give to the actions of others.  Instead of assuming—check your assumptions out by asking the person directly what they meant, why they did what they did, etc.  This one move could save you a lot of hurt.


Comments

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I feel there are a lot of great points made in this article and it does help to change your perspective a little.

However, assumptions that are backed up with evidence or are patterns in a relationship are usually true.

Also, most people do not admit to things. Like yes, you are correct, I am selfish and or I am having an affair. Most of the time we can look at someones behavior over time and make accurate assumptions. Most of the time. I realize there are exceptions. I do agree that we make snap judgments about people that are unfair.

I was raised a Christian and was taught to never judge, which has not served me well. I think this concept can be understood in the right context - to not think you are better than others, to not presume to know why people do what they do, but when it comes to relationships it is helpful to make healthy judgements or balanced judgements. I've learned the most times, if it looks like a dog, barks like a dog, wags its tail like a dog, it is most very likely a dog. lol

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