“Most of our assumptions have outlived their uselessness.” - Marshall McLuhan
“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” - Henry Winkler
Assumptions negatively affect our relationships in several important ways. We unconsciously make assumptions and judgments about (1) other people’s behavior, (2) other people’s intentions behind their behavior, and (3) our own behavior and intentions.
For example, a husband goes to the store to get something for dinner. He knows his wife will be hungry and tries to find out what she would like. He calls her from the store, but to no avail. Then he tries to decide what she may want. He had asked her in the morning but she didn’t know what she might want 10 hours later. When she gets home in the evening, he prepared what he likes and says, “I didn’t know what you wanted, so I didn’t get anything.”
The woman immediately goes into a fury. She angrily replies, “Have I ever gone to the store and gotten something for myself and not for you? No, of course not! I would never do that to you. Now I have to go back to the store to find something for myself.”
1) The husband shopping at the store assumed that since his wife didn’t tell him what she wanted, that she might get angry if he came home with the wrong thing. He assumed that she might be more angry if he came home with the wrong thing than with nothing at all.
2) The wife assumed that her husband didn’t care about her needs, didn’t think about her and was selfishly only thinking of himself. She judged him to be selfish, uncaring and thoughtless. He judged her as overly emotional and irrational.
3) Now, in the moment she was too angry to check out her assumptions and he was to confused to check out his. The behavior pattern of each person can be traced back to early experiences of how, or if, their needs were met. Age regression hypnotherapy is a powerful tool to accomplish this exploration.
Our assumptions are directly related to what we project onto others. Assumptions, projections and judgments are where the fights begin in relationships. After an argument, a good practice in couples work is for each partner to look at their assumptions and judgments. If you really want to change your relationships into a healthy communication style, here is a practice couples can do.
1) Describe the behavior, just the actual specific behavior: “When you . . .” (for example, “When you went to the store and bought your dinner and came home with nothing for me”)
2) Identify your emotional feelings: “I felt . . .” (only the core emotions of angry, hurt, sad, scared, lonely, jealous, or shame)
3) Identify your assumptions: “I assumed that you . . .” (“You didn’t care about me”)
4) State your judgments: “The judgment I made about you was . . . (“You are selfish”)
5) What question would provide more useful information to clarify your assumption: “I assumed that . . . Is that true?” (“I assumed that you don’t care about me. Do you care about me?”)
6) Be clear about what you need from yourself in order to handle a similar situation in a healthy way (“I need to check out my assumptions before acting on them.”)
7) Be clear about what you would like from the other person, knowing that you may or may not get it (“I would like you to buy food for both of us when you go to the store.”)
8) Close the exercise with an intention to create closeness with the other person (“I would like to open my heart to you and have a conversation about what happened.”)
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