Countless arguments and misunderstanding between people arise because of this one fact. We make assumptions about people - what they must be thinking, what they are feeling, what is motivating their behaviour - and we conclude our assumptions are the truth. Speculating about someone’s thoughts, feeling and behaviour is one thing and thinking we know it for certain is another. The second is the recipe for disaster in relationships.
“When I was talking in the group yesterday, she was often screwing up her face. I know she always disliked me”
Separate the observation and assumptions in the above. The other person screwed up her face is a real-life observation. The reason for screwing up in your assumption and not the truth. For all you know the person may have been suffering from stomach cramps or she could have screwed it up for a hundred different reasons. We don’t question our assumptions at all but believe it to be the hard truth.
Wherever possible, it is a good idea to seek clarification from the other person about what is going on in their minds before we decide what is truth. Or at least wait for some time for more evidence. No matter how long you have known the other person, you can never really KNOW what that person is thinking or feeling.
Many misunderstandings in relationships arise because of these assumptions. We think we are good at mind-reading.
Take the simplest of our actions. We ring someone and they do not answer the call. The assumption machine starts whirring into action.
“He did not pick my call, because he wants to put me in my place”
“She did not pick my call because I had an argument with her yesterday”
“He did not pick my call as he is not interested in having a relationship with me”
“She wants me to get the message that she has put me on ignore”
You can add your assumption to that list. Once we make any of the assumptions, our mind accepts that for a fact and reacts to it. You will react as if you have actually been ignored deliberately by the person. You will start constructing stories about the past behaviour, feel sad, angry, disappointed, guilty, shameful or a mix of all that depending on the context.
All because you held the assumptions to be true. How many time has it happened that the other person has called you back later to tell you they were in a meeting, had forgotten the phone, it was on silent etc? All the emotional labour that you put in based on your assumption went out of the window. Note that our assumptions are rarely positive if ever.
In real life, while we do make assumptions about the working of the minds of others, it is important to keep that in perspective. Knowing that it is an assumption and one of the possibilities rather than a hard fact helps us to keep openness to relationships and not lead to self-inflicted misery.