As I got situated in the one day, I began going through my text messages and noticed I hadn't heard back from my dad in several days. This is unusual; we text nearly every day. I assumed he was receiving all my updates via my text messages to my mom.
Meanwhile, my dad could not figure out why I was not responding to his text messages. It was during my visit for the holidays that we finally figured it out: the last digit in my phone number had been deleted from his phone—which made it impossible to receive his text messages for several weeks.
Both of us were incorrect with our assumptions about why we weren’t receiving each other’s messages!
What causes us to make assumptions? Perhaps we do this because we’re busy and it’s easy; we categorize and assume things so we can understand issues and act quickly. We impatiently jump to conclusions or make assumptions—and this causes us undue stress.
Whatever item—be it a memory, an emotion or something else—we link to an incident or idea is what it becomes. Although some of our past events may have created great memories and instilled confidence, others work against us, limiting our talents and skills. Realize these circumstances are now in the past.
The mind believes only what we allow it to accept and reacts only to how it has been conditioned. Our beliefs are those we have formed. Whether right or wrong, they make up the system we act on, but it is never too late to change. Stop making assumptions. Learn to become aware of when you are making assumptions and understand how they can cause misunderstandings with these tips:
- Get into the habit of asking yourself, “What assumptions am I making?” Check in with yourself before allowing your imagination to run wild about things that frustrate you. This will save you from unnecessary drama. It is easy to take your untrue assumptions personally. By assuming something, you could create a misunderstanding with another person.
- Listen to your internal mental chatter—it’s creating assumptions. Try some divergent thinking exercises like brainstorming, mind mapping or writing in your journal. These types of exercises can help expand your critical thinking while keeping you from making false assumptions. The exercises are also a great way to break some bad mental habits and . I often head to Abalone Cove Beach in Rancho Palos Verdes to focus on divergent thinking exercises when my mind is overwhelmed with unclear assumptions. I walk along the shoreline there, decompress and then sit awhile and write down my thoughts on paper.
- When in doubt, ask and double check. This one may sound simple because it is; however, many times we just don't take the initiative and ask or double check. My dad simply could have called me to ask if I was receiving his text messages; I could have called him to see if he was extra busy and just receiving my updates through my mom (as I was assuming he was). Many of us may become passive in a similar situation as this; we may actually fear asking the question or questions that need to be asked. This could be because of an unpleasant past experience, and we are assuming the experience could repeat itself.
- Try not to automatically make assumptive shortcuts just because you think you know someone well. Even if you've known someone for years, it doesn't mean they will respond or react as they have in the past. Trying to interpret what someone will do or say can be disrespectful of that person’s feelings, needs or values. Recall a time when someone made false assumptions about you—how do you feel? Resist the urge to accept stereotypes. Even though many times stereotypes might be quite accurate, they tend to cloud our judgment.
- Consider asking yourself, “When does making my assumptions cause me unnecessary frustrations, and what can I do about it?” When you find yourself in a similar situation you've faced in the past, it is easy to revert to the way you did before. Nevertheless, the similar situation probably has different people in it, and they will react differently. Use a few minutes to take a deep breath, clear your mind and ask questions that will help you gather the facts and information you need. Ask open questions to clarify assumptions such as the who, what, when, where and how.
Making assumptions can actually hinder us from reaching our goals in life. Assumptions can keep us from having the courage to acknowledge what it is we need. Last week, we learned and how those choices can influence where we are currently in our life. Now that we have explored more about how making assumptions can lead to misunderstandings, let's keep this knowledge in mind as we move forward this year.