The trouble with assumptions...
I recently posted one of my ‘boost of the day’ tweets featuring don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements. For those that missed the post, here they are:
1. Be impeccable with your word.
2. Don’t take anything personally.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
4. Always do your best.
This image below explains a bit more about what each agreement means.
These agreements come from a self-help book by bestselling author Don Miguel Ruiz with Janet Mills, wherein readers are offered a code of conduct based on ancient Toltec wisdom that advocates freedom from self-limiting beliefs that may cause suffering and limitation in a person's life.
I noticed how this post seemed to resonate with people, as these agreements did with me many years ago when I read the book.
But it is the third agreement, that as the author suggests, is one of the most powerful: Don’t make assumptions.
We love assumptions
We humans are pretty adept at making assumptions…about almost everything. Our minds love what is familiar, and we have a real need to make sense of situations, therefore we find it very easy to ‘fill in the blanks’ with interpretations of what we see and hear. As we try and make sense of situations, we join up the proverbial dots as our brain searches for patterns and can often leap to conclusions and thoughts that simply aren’t real or true.
Why assumptions are a problem
* They can limit our capacity to relate to others. If we always assume that we know what others think or feel, we are not really listening and we can leave people feeling misunderstood or diminish their self esteem
* Assumptions limit creativity and opportunity to find solutions
* An assumption can become a belief – we come to see our assumption as truth, though it may be far from what is really true
The problem with assumptions is that they become an easy way out for us. Rather than finding the courage to ask better questions, or really clarify what we want, we leap to an assumption because it fits with what we think we know. Unfortunately, making these assumptions about people, a situation or circumstance, can often lead to misunderstandings or even drama. What’s worse, we believe what we assume, as this becomes what we ‘know’ – and we love knowledge because it makes us feel safe and secure. We get stuck in old patterns of thinking, rather than seeking clarification or understanding – even if that’s uncomfortable.
Making assumptions is such a habit that it takes a little practice to shift into focusing on what the truth of a situation is.
Here are some tips:
* Before you jump to a conclusion, or what you think is the truth, ask: What am I assuming?
* Pick a week and note down how often your mind jumps to an assumption; you may be surprised how often you do this (and they’re just the ones you actually notice)
* What questions can I ask to get the clarification and understanding I want? So, for example, you might ask yourself:
What facts do I have that prove this to be true?
What facts do I have that prove this isn’t true?
Did someone teach me this, or this is my own opinion?
What if I embraced uncertainty rather than control, how would that feel?
We are so accustomed to making assumptions that it can be a hard habit to break. The first step then is to simply become aware of how often you are making them. Then try some of the tips above and see how you get on. You may be surprised how life changes for you.