We make assumptions every day. Some assumptions are based on our brain noticing patterns to make our lives easier. You assume that people will drive on the correct side of the road, that your new car will start, that the sun will come up and that you will still be married tomorrow. Typically, you don’t spend time worrying about these issues. Assumptions save you time and worry. Imagine having to plan for whether the sun will come up!
Other assumptions, based on emotions and little to no evidence, cause problems in your life. Assuming with no facts that people are angry with you, that you are going to lose your job, or that a spouse is lying lead to upset and conflict. Sticking to facts can save you unnecessary suffering and upset.
Sometimes you have assumptions that you don’t know that you have. For example, maybe you push yourself to be funny when you’re with others. You’re not aware that you have an assumption that you need to be funny to make relationships work, but you are acting on that assumption. To not be funny would be uncomfortable because of your assumption.
Two assumptions in particular seem to be out of most people’s awareness and cause significant relationship problems. One is the assumption that if you want something from someone and it’s really important to you, the person should give it to you if he can. For example, if you really want a second chance in a relationship (friendship, romantic relationship, professional relationship) with someone, he should give you a chance. If you really want to know something that is important to you, the other person should tell you, especially if there is not reason you can see for him not to tell you. If you really want to go on vacation to a certain place, eat dinner in a particular restaurant, watch a certain television show, or decide on a certain couch the other person should go along with it. When you have this assumption, you may be angry with the other person when you don’t get what you really want. You may push others too hard, put pressure on them and damage the relationship.
A second assumption that causes issues is that if someone loves you she will agree with you. How do you react when someone disagrees with you on something important? If someone you love votes for a different candidate, disagrees with your opinions about friends, and has different ideas about parenting, you may have a deep belief that she is rejecting you. That makes it difficult to listen to the reasons she thinks the way she does and to problem solve.
What do you think? Next time you are angry with someone, consider if unhelpful assumptions are part of the issue. Awareness is the first step. Then practice letting go of those assumptions that get in the way of relationships.
Note: DBTSkillsCoaching.com is an educational program teaching coping skills for strong emotions.