Assumption Poisons Relationships – Here’s How To Fight It
By Fin Sheridan
I’ve had several uncomfortable conversations over the last few weeks which honestly, isn’t unusual. They seem to follow me around but maybe that says more about me than anything else. However, as I reflected on these conversations, I realised something. Most of them could’ve been avoided, or been less uncomfortable, if I simply eliminated something from my life…
Assumption is something we all do; it’s a normal part of life. The more we grow, the more assumptions we make. In fact, we make thousands of assumptions every day, without even thinking. When we drive, we assume other drivers will adhere to the rules of the road. When we buy food, we assume that it’s safe to eat. The dictionary defines assumption as “a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof” which doesn’t sound that far from a definition of ‘faith’!
Assumption, whilst harmless most of the time, can cause all sorts of relational strifes. When we make assumptions, about others motives or behaviours, we can often come into conflict or misunderstanding. Assumptions can often lead to disappointment – we assume that another will or won’t act a certain way and then when they do, it hurts us.
“Our relationships can flourish in an assumption free world!”
When we assume, we put words in another’s mouth for them, words that they might never say. At its worst, assumption can lead to a breakdown in trust. Assumption, particularly repeated assumption, can be a toxic poison that damages our relationships. So, how can we protect ourselves from the danger?
At its most basic, assumption is a communication issue. When we ‘err on the side of communication’ (some of the best advice I’ve ever been given), we don’t give room for assumption. We don’t assume that certain behaviours are okay or not okay because we’ve talked about them. We don’t need to guess what our spouse/co-worker/friend who say because we’ve asked them. We eliminate the “without proof” aspect of the assumption definition and are left with “things that are true and certain to happen” which is a much firmer foundation!
You can’t always communicate ahead of time; the journey away from assumption takes time but it’s a worthwhile pursuit. As we communicate more with the people around us, whether it’s our partner, our children, our friends or our colleagues, we discover more about who they are and what matters to them. When we do assume wrongly, we should be quick to ask for forgiveness and seek to understand, rather than defensive and protective. Our relationships can flourish in an assumption free world!