Assumptions can be dangerous
Making assumptions about things is a very easy thing to do. I try very hard not to do this, but ultimately, I find myself doing it too. When I do, I usually always regret it.
We all make assumptions, most of the time about trivial every day things. Sometimes we may not even realize we’re doing it. Our brains are actually designed to make certain assumptions about things in our day to day lives, by searching for patterns. This helps our brains to become more efficient at its job.
The problem with making assumptions is when they start to become a habit. We are oblivious to how much our own inner world shapes the way we see things. What ends up happening as a result, is that we end up creating more problems for ourselves and those around us, as we become less and less grounded in reality.
Believe it or not, most of what we base making assumptions on is actually a learned behavior that stems from what we are taught as a child. Crazy, right?
We tend to take the information we have, and form an opinion based on that information. It’s human nature to do this to try and make sense of an event or a situation, based on what’s going on in our own heads. We tend to prefer to make judgments, regardless of the facts presented, on the basis of our own beliefs, expectations, and emotions.
Unfortunately, it can be a very destructive habit. Always assuming you know how others think or feel can lead you to stop listening and communicating. It can even affect your mood, by creating a pattern of negative thinking. When you lack these skills, they can lead into having poor relationships with others, as well as limit your possibilities.
Negative impacts of making assumptions
Obviously, making assumptions about someone or something can have consequences. When you form an opinion or make a decision without having all the facts, you end up setting limits for yourself. Whether intentional or not, you then try to push those limits onto others, which can end up causing those around you to feel trapped and misunderstood.
Recently, I had someone (a complete stranger) make their own assumptions regarding a post I had written, and tried to use these assumptions to tell me they knew more about my situation than I did. At first I thought part of the reason this happened was due to not knowing all the facts. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
This person took what I had written, made their own assumptions about it, and then used these assumptions to both harass and try to force their beliefs on me. They did not care about the truth, and nothing I said was going to change the way they felt.
This is never okay to do to anyone, ever. The experience was both shocking and frustrating, as it didn’t matter even after I chose to present additional information. This person had already formed their opinion, believed in their feelings and emotions regarding my post, and nothing was going to change their mind about how they felt, not even the facts.
Honestly, it’s scary to think there are people who think this way, who believe it’s okay to try and force others to accept their opinions. This kind of black and white thinking will shut down creative thinking by limiting the possibilities.
How to stop making assumptions
Fortunately, just as this behavior is learned, it can also be unlearned. (Yay!) It takes practice, but it isn’t hard to do. By learning how to stop making assumptions, you are also learning healthier skills. It will also open up your mind to new and different possibilities, and promote more positive thinking.
Here are some great ways to start practicing –
- First, you have to become aware you’re making them. Begin watching and listening to yourself and your thoughts. Get a notebook, and start keeping track of when you find yourself assuming things. Even the little ones, such as, “They’re not texting me back, they must not want to talk.”
- Question yourself – ask yourself WHY you made that assumption. What facts do you have to prove your assumption to be true? What facts do you have to prove your assumption to be false? Why do I assume this to be correct?
- Embrace the unknown, and learn from it. A lot of times, we make assumptions in order to feel like we’re in control. Then need to control can sometimes stem from a need to feel safe, which ironically, is also an assumption.
- Practice mindful thinking. When you learn to become more aware of your own thoughts, you’re able to view yourself as well as others in a completely different way. This is also a great way to help keep you grounded.
These tips will help you get started, and there are many more ways to practice staying away from assumptions.
If you’re ever unsure about a situation, it’s okay to ask. You’ll find others are much more receptive and appreciative of your willingness to try and understand things, instead of making your own assumptions without knowing all the facts. It has the ability to change your relationships with others, and how you communicate too.