To assume or not to assume that is the question?

A friend and I was discussing Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements with particular reference to the third one which is ‘Don’t make assumptions” Her response was to say that to not make assumptions was beyond human nature. It is an interesting practice to observe just how often we do make assumptions. Personally I suspect the suggestion regarding assumptions may not be realistic however what we can do is start to pay attention when we make them. I think the challenge most of us face is that we make assumptions but don’t see them as such. Steven Covey suggests “We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be. And our attitudes and behaviors grow out of these assumptions.” My friend is in the early phase of exploring a relationship. Last week she had not heard from her friend even though she had e-mailed. She took off for a trip, occasionally checking her e-mail but received no response. She assumed that the person in question was no longer interested in connecting. On the surface this may appear a fairly logical assumption however the first thing to do is to assess why are we making the assumption. Many assumptions arise because we feel vulnerable or because our feelings are hurt. When someone I am close to doesn’t return a call I may assume that I am not important enough to be a priority in their life. Of course then our hurt feelings manifest as an assumption. So in the early stage of a relationship we are most vulnerable and therefore are most likely to leap to an assumption that reflects our anxiety. A good test is to substitute someone else into the situation and ask yourself if it was xxx would I make the same assumption? I use a friend who rarely responds to e-mails because of her insanely busy life so I never make the assumption that she doesn’t care about me. Often our assumption come from increased sensitivity.
What my friend didn’t know was that the prospective date had become insanely busy and rather than e-mail had telephoned to invite her to an event. My friend had not picked up the telephone message because she was away. Now of course we have the potential for a second assumption by the other party. “She hasn’t replied to my call so she doesn’t care about me.” Two assumptions like this if not resolved can lead to further estrangement. Of course Don Miguel goes on to say “Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama..” The challenge I see is that often we are left in a space where we crave an explanation and making an assumption is the way we fill that empty space. Yet if we don’t accept that the route cause of many assumptions is our own vulnerability and feelings then we can create a major issue from nothing. The first step is to see the assumption then we need to understand why it has power over us. Perhaps identify other possibilities and avoid leaping to conclusions until we have clarified the situation. Then perhaps explore what is coming up to be healed. Suddenly the assumption can be seen as part of the story of or life that has come to bring meaning to our soul’s journey. Alan Alda the actor once said “Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

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