Those of us that have been married a long time have a unique ability to look at our spouse and just know what they are thinking. They can just walk in the door from work, and we know whether they have had a good day or a bad day.
It is a beneficial ability as it doesn’t work most of the time, and it ends up causing arguments and disagreements. I mean without being wrong about your assumptions of what your spouse is thinking, what are you going to fight about?
In our Catalyst for Change series, I wrote; What Are The Four Agreements Of Life? Ideals That Will Make You Better. It covers the book The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz.
In his book, he talks about four agreements we need to make with ourselves to find personal happiness. These concepts have the potential to create lasting personal change, so I wanted to review each one in more depth.
These Four Agreements Are:
- Be Impeccable With Your Word
- Don’t Take Anything Personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always Do Your Best
In this article, I will be focusing on the third agreement, Don’t Make Assumptions.
I’m assuming you are interested…..
We as humans love to make assumptions about everything. From our spouses to our bosses, to the other drivers on the road, there is not a person or a situation we don’t try and assume what others are thinking. This leads to a lot of anger, frustration, and hurt feelings. Why does it cause so much trouble?
According to Ruiz:
We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth.
We believe that they are the truth
This is where most of our problems in life come from. As soon we assume something to be real with our thoughts, it starts to become true to our brains. And when our brain starts believing something is true, it starts to get the body involved.
Angry, happy, or sad, our brain is like; ‘Hang on I’ve got this.”, and starts flooding the body with chemicals. Serotonin if we are delighted, adrenaline if we are excited or scared or any number of other substances; starts to flood our body and mind.
Whatever emotion that fits the situation is now felt by the body and the mind. So how can it not be true? We feel it, so it must be real.
The Argument in our favor
We have created our own reality in the second it takes us to make an assumption about the situation.
Remember, all of this has been done based on a look on someone’s face, the way they moved or a simple sigh. Up to this point, no one has called you a name or hit you. (Though they may feel like it when you start to push your assumption onto them!)
My wife and I have been together for 27 years, so I assume after all this time that I am really good at knowing what she’s thinking and feeling. On a good day, I will probably get a 90/10 split on how she feels correct.
To clear up any confusion, 90% wrong and 10% right. On a good day.
I don’t know about you, but being wrong about something is not my most favorite thing in the world. So what happens, if we wrongly assume something?
We don’t want to be wrong, so we start to argue and twist the situation to prove that we are actually right. We have now created a situation in which we think we are right all from some small, inconsequential detail we incorrectly defined.
Ancient knowledge, scientific proof
Are you sitting there reading this going, that doesn’t happen to me! I know what is real and what is imagined!
Really we don’t. And this isn’t just you, we all do this on a daily basis. This is now being backed up by science, our brains do not really differentiate imagination from reality.
Using MRI machines to measure activity in the brain, scientists have been able to discover that whether we imagine we are doing something, or actually doing it, our minds read both of these activities as having actually happened.
It means that what you imagine to be happening is actually happening as far as your brain is concerned.
When we assume feelings or thoughts in another person, we have started the process in our own minds of making this reality. When we confront the person we are making the assumption about with our assumptions and find out they we wrong, our mind rebels against the insinuation that it is wrong and we take that personally.
And what happens according to Ruiz when we assume and take things personally?
When we believe something, we assume we are right about it to the point that we will destroy relationships in order to defend our position.
Read my mind
Assuming goes the other way as well.
Not only do we assume we know what other people are thinking or feeling, but we also assume they know what we are thinking!
We especially do this in long term relationships.
Remember my little 90/10 comment? I mean after 27 years my wife should know what I’m thinking. And to be fair sometimes she does. She probably gets it right about 25% of the time compared to my 10%. Still not the best odds, right?
Knowing this, I still come home from work sometimes expecting her to look at my sad, sad face, and just know I had a bad day.
How does this work out for me? Well, unless I am bleeding and in tears, it doesn’t.
She has got shit to do besides sit and wonder if I’m feeling bad. I’m a grown-ass man after all and I should be able to use my words to tell her what is going with me.
(Yeah, she is kinda a badass)
The saying goes….
We have all heard the saying:
When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and Me. – Some Unknown Smart Person
This is such a true statement, yet we so often fail to realize just how much we do it.
The driver in front of you that is going slow, we assume they are doing it on purpose to slow us down.
When our boss is late for a meeting she scheduled, we assume she is doing it to put us in our place.
When your spouse is sitting across the room and sighs a little loudly, you assume It must be because you forgot to take the trash out like you said you would; and she is just acting all dramatic so you will do it.
You get home from work, and you just got an unexpected raise, you open the door and look at your spouse, and assume she just has to know you have good news, right? She looks at you and says, “Did you check the mail on the way in?”
We get hurt or angry when we assume that someone should know what we are thinking, and they fail to get it right.
We get angry and hurt when we assume that others should know what we are thinking and feeling.
Assume you know yourself
We even make assumptions about ourselves. And this can lead to trouble in our own minds.
We make assumptions about ourselves, and this creates inner conflict. “I think I am able to do this.” You make this assumption, then discover you aren’t able to do it. You overestimate or underestimate yourself because you haven’t taken the time to ask yourself questions and to answer them. – don Miguel Ruiz
We make assumptions about ourselves without any facts, and then when we fail to accomplish what we set out to do, we get mad or down on ourselves for this failure. Creating even more discord in our lives.
All this pain and heartache for what? For something that wasn’t even real in the first place.
This is the danger of assuming.
Path to Peace
Can we all agree that assuming is not a great thing to do? It hurts others, and it hurts us.
So are you ready for some ancient wisdom to learn how to stop assuming? Get a pen, hell get a permanent marker and write this shit down.
According to Ruiz, the ancient knowledge is:
1 -The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions.
2 – Make sure the communication is clear.
3 – If you don’t understand, ask.
4 – Have the courage to ask questions until you are as clear as can be, and even then do not assume you know all there is to know about a given situation.
All ancient knowledge isn’t mystical or vague, did you assume it was?
Talk. Ask. Listen.
These are the keys to stop assuming. Three tiny things that our egos have such a hard time grasping.
Talk. Ask. Listen
Following these three things can cut out 90 percent of the fighting and misunderstandings in your life. Can you imagine the added joy you can have in your relationships, in your job and all other aspects of your life if you can do this one little thing?
Don’t make assumptions.
Don’t Make Assumptions: The Third Agreement