Now What Are You Going To Do About It
“When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.”
~ Oscar Wilde
I’m sure that you’ve been caught in a situation in your life where you’ve made an assumption that’s proven to be false and you’ve felt foolish.
Over the last while I’ve been observing the amount of assuming that goes on in everyday life and I wanted to shed some light on what I’ve noticed. However before we get started, there are a few things we need to establish as a foundation in order to really get to the true impact of our human tendency to make assumptions.
We all have a running background conversation going on at all times (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, trust it’s the voice you hear right now telling you there is no such voice…) This background conversation has been with you at least since you learned to understand language and it’s developed quite a repertoire of tools in it’s arsenal to use to keep you in line.
That background conversation is typically talking to you from the perspective of “something’s wrong.” Not sure what I’m talking about? Stop and think for a moment about the last time you looked in the mirror to assess how your appearance, were called into your boss’s office, or got that text from your date saying “I need to talk to you later”… what was the background conversation associated with that? My bet is your voice wasn’t particularly nice to you.
It is part of human nature to figure out or determine an explanation for everything (I mean EVERYTHING) that happens to us as we go through our days. Someone cuts you off in traffic you explain it away with: he didn’t see me, or he’s in a rush, or he’s a jerk.
Or maybe your partner looks at you out of the corner of their eye and in a nano-second you have an explanation as to why they looked at you like that: they don’t believe you, they’re mad at you, they think you’re crazy, they think you’re making something up, etc.
These explanations happen in the blink of an eye and have a huge impact on how we see the world.
For most of us, all of these things generally happen outside the realm of our basic consciousness. Most people don’t realize that they’re making up explanations for everything that’s happening in their world moment by moment. Most people are not in tune with the voice in their head. Most people are not aware of the perspective they have of life that “something’s wrong.” Most people go through life thinking it just is this way and that’s all there is to it!
Finally, all of this is occurring from a very self-focused outlook – or should I say “inlook”? Consider that the majority of the time you are looking at the situations around you from the perspective of how they impact you, or might impact you, or what they mean about you, or what they mean about your relationship with someone else, or what they mean about your worth, or your intelligence, or your capability.
What if…. the truth is that every time anyone talks to you about something you’re so caught up in your own experience of life that whatever they say reminds you of something going on in your life so you kind of stop listening to them and what they’re saying and start talking about what’s occurring for you in your world….
This might be a really uncomfortable concept to confront – because it might mean something negative about you, because something’s wrong here, and the only explanation is that you must be doing something wrong, at least the little voice in your head feels like something’s wrong, because you feel an overwhelming urge to defend yourself by saying: “what’s she talking about? I’m not like that! I don’t do that! I always think about and listen to other people!”
Consider that – right there – is the proof that (like almost every other human being on the planet – Mother Theresa, the Dali Lama, and Gandhi aside) you are relatively self focused… all of that internal dialogue was about YOU!!
Now take all of that and combine it together with all the assumptions you make and you’ve got a recipe for disconnection and misunderstanding with people, and it’s running rampant in your life. We are pathological assumption makers – AND!!! – we don’t even know it!
You meet a person and in the first 7 seconds you’ve made approximately a zillion assumptions about who they are. Unconsciously you base this on: how they’re dressed, what they say or don’t say, what they look like, their mannerisms… you make a bunch of assumptions about what their life is like, what it’s been like, what kind of person they are, what their job is, how much money they make, etc.
If that’s how we are with people that we’ve just met, imagine the level of assumption making that you do about the people you know based on your perception of who they are and your previous experiences with them…
Recently in my life I had a situation arise where I made an assumption about how my Mother was going to react to something I had going on in my life. I had an opportunity presented to me that I was interested in and at the same time conflicted with what I’d have to give up in order to take the opportunity. Based on my previous experience with my Mom and what I perceived as her ‘need for security’?, I assumed she would get really upset with me for not taking the opportunity.
With this assumption in mind, rather than call and talk with her about it as the situation was happening, I withheld the information completely. One evening over dinner I ended up mentioning the opportunity and my decision to her as well as telling her I had been hesitant about telling her. I could see the hurt in her face as I shared all of this with her and she immediately asked why I hadn’t told her in the first place. I told her what my assumption was and she promptly said that all she wanted for me was to be happy and she could see that although the opportunity may be a great one, it was also outside the realm of what would be fulfilling for me.
That knocked me over. What else have I been assuming to be true about my Mother? And what’s the cost been to our relationship? It was tough pill to swallow for sure… Just because I was so focused on me and what was happening in my life and not wanting to deal with what I was sure (assumed) would be disappointment from my Mother, I denied my Mom the opportunity to share part of my life with me.
Now that you see we all have the ‘assumption filter’ on unless we’re vigilant about not viewing life, people, and situations that way – what assumptions are you making? What impact is it having on your relationships and ease of living? What about the assumptions you made a long time ago about a particular situation, person, or group and you’ve just been living with that assumption as if it’s the truth, and you don’t even know it!?!?
Think about the limitations that would cause…
And what about inherited assumptions or beliefs? Those things that you hear or pick-up as you go through life from the world around you that you don’t even question – you just assume they’re true because so-and-so said so… like your parents, or your peers… what impact is that having on your life that up until now you’ve not even considered?
Maybe spend some time this week taking this into consideration and see what pops up… you never know what it will shift in you life 🙂
Until next time ,
PS – As I was writing this article, I became acutely aware of other assumptions I’ve been making about some of the other people in my life and a number of situations too. I’ve been taking a hard look at those and started doing some investigation into what’s true and what’s all my made up stuff. It’s been a bit of a challenge as well as TOTALLY eye opening. Reviewing your life through this filter every now and again can make a huge difference!!
What assumptions are you making in your life right now? And what impact are they having? What assumptions are you making that you don’t even know you’re making that are actually kind of f-ing up your life or relationships? If you’d like to have a look at this and see what’s possible when you don’t have the ‘assumption filter’ in the way, hit me up for a free consult and we’ll check that out.
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