For as long as I can remember, up until a couple of years ago. I used to act based on my assumptions of others.
I would start a conversation in my mind or think about how someone will react to a situation and then give them a position and start to respond to the position or answers I have ascribed to them in my mind.
Those conversation would continue for several minutes (all in my mind, o) back and forth. I would argue, make excuses, accuse, defend and conclude.
I would then see the person in real life and start my conversations with them based on the conclusions I had arrived at when I had my “mind” conversations. I would hold firmly to my version of how they reasoned in spite of what they said believing my own conclusions to be the truth no matter what they said or did and reluctantly letting go of my conclusions when it became crystal clear that they were not true and lying in wait for any misstep to prove me right.
You can only imagine how disastrous my close relationships were and the amount of emotion and time I spent on processing things that were not real and could not be proved and my chagrin when my projections were found to be unnecessary and untrue.
I suspect I am not the only one who has had this thought pattern, in fact I am convinced that several of us have this attitude to life and it is very hurtful to those with whom we have relationships with.
Psychologists have discovered that assumptions are derived from two sources. They are either direct or indirect. Direct assumptions are the ones that originate from our thinking. We tend to believe our thoughts about the person or situation and act based on those assumptions.
Indirect assumptions are those that originate from other sources. We hear some information, interpret same and assume our own interpretations of the information received to be accurate, forgetting that most times, second hand information is colored by the perspective of the person transmitting it.
Whether direct or indirect, our assumptions are based on our thinking patterns , experiences, beliefs and knowledge. But they can be very detrimental to our health and that of our relationships.
Here are some classic assumptions that can hurt relationships:
a) He/She did it purposely, I can’t prove it now but I know.
b) I am unappreciated and being used.
c) She/ he should know how I feel
d) He/ she should know what to do without my telling him/her
I have been in certain relationships where I felt totally misunderstood, limited by how the person saw me, trapped by the reflections of the person they thought I was, been hurt immensely because the other person had assumed the worst about me.
In those situations, my explanations to the contrary or the things I did to reassure them could not change their mind that I was not what they thought me to be or that I had changed from who I previously was.
I have also been guilty about assuming the worst about people, thinking in some instances that my children were just out to frustrate me or that Mr. Aisi had purposely done something to hurt me not knowing that in most of the occasions they acted instinctively, without thinking of the consequences ( like I am wont to do), were also hurting badly and did not consciously set out to hurt me.
It can be a frustrating cycle when you are trying to change a person’s mindset about you and most times it either leaves one trying too hard and losing themselves in the process, or not wanting to try at all believing what ever they do wouldn’t change a thing.
That’s why a child would say: “whatever I say Mummy wouldn’t believe me because she thinks I am self centered,” or a man would say, “I might as well not tell her that my meeting that lady was purely business because she already thinks I am having an affair” and a woman would say, “he wants to control me so I will not let him know much about me.”
Looking back, I realize that most of my assumptions came from my wanting to always be in control of every situation I was in, which stemmed from my fears of being taken for granted and belittled.
So I made up several scenarios in my head, took those I thought befitting of the other person, acted on them and in so doing many a time, regrettably affirmed the person’s perception of me.
It took awhile but I learnt that my assumptions were not helping my relationships and I learnt to communicate with people.
I learnt to ask questions and the answers I got made me see just how wrong my thinking was. I learnt to explain myself, what I wanted and how I wanted it without thinking that the person should know.
I began to manage my expectations of people realizing that our backgrounds and histories were different. We didn’t think alike, our priorities were not always the same, our perspectives to life differed and that most times what I thought was appropriate behavior in certain circumstances was not considered so by others.
I learnt to empathize with people, put myself in their situations and tried to see life from their perspective and the more I did that, the more I was able to understand that there were circumstances in people’s lives that I was not privy to that made them act the way they did. Once I was able to see the whole picture of people’s circumstances I could understand their behavior better.
I also became more positive about people and myself. I became aware that if I didn’t have the underlying belief that someone wanted to control me or meant me evil, it was easier to listen to them and understand their behavior.
Assumptions tend to make us less open and receptive, less eager to connect with others, more inclined to stop making an effort to make our relationships work. They create constant tension and conflict and in the long run destroy and ruin our relationships.
This week , take time to look at your assumptions, things most often are not what we think they are and people are not always who we assume them to be.