The Power of 'Assumptions' in Relationships... A Consideration for 2018
Entering into the New Year, I recently found myself looking back at 2017 and reflecting on what I had accomplished, what I personally improved on from the previous year and what I can continue to work on and develop to be an even better person in 2018… not only to myself, but to those in my life. When I did this, one thing in particular struck a chord with me. Something that I think has become an issue for many, often unknowingly, in their relationships... one that is often not thought of as important or considered at all. What I am talking about is how the assumptions we make affect our relationships, of both the romantic and non-romantic type. Comfort, ignorance and avoidance, I believe, are a few of the things behind the assumptions we make about those we have relationships with. I hope this makes more sense as you continue to read...
The universe truly does work in mysterious ways, especially when it comes to the interactions we can encounter on a particular day. In trying to get work completed and organized in the weeks leading up to Christmas break, fitting in my hobbies and some relaxation time was a tough task, but I managed to ‘survive’ the holiday rush, thinking I was ‘doing just fine,’ chatting with friends when I could, running the errands that needed to be done, and doing my daily healthy habits (E.g. going to the gym). But despite this, one interaction I had at the gym with an elderly man that I chat with ‘here and there’ made me realize that the ‘rush’ of not only the holidays, but of today’s society in general, is affecting even our ‘little’ relationships. And not only that, but how we are, unknowingly and sometimes ignorantly, hurting those we have these relationships with simply by making assumptions. If we are doing this in our ‘little’ relationships, I began to think - “How have the assumptions I make about others affected them and how have the assumptions these people have made about me affected me?”
When I go to the gym, I despise having to ‘rush’ to get through my workout as exercise is a tool I use to manage my stress, not add to it. But during the month of December, time was at a premium and I was proud of myself that I was at least getting my workouts in. What I didn’t realize was that my usual conversations with my ‘gym buddies’ weren’t even happening because I was so focused on ‘getting my workout done in time’ so I could go do X, Y, Z, etc. I assumed that a quick smile or ‘hey, how are you?’ to these friends was good enough, because - “Hey, everyone understands right? It’s a busy time of year! They know I’m just busy and will chat with them sometime soon”… but my interaction with the elderly man I mentioned above made me not only realize that I was thinking this way, almost ‘unconsciously,’ but just how important it is to maintain our relationships and friendships and to become more conscious of the assumptions we often make.
After finishing up my workout, I saw this man and thought -“Hey, we haven’t chatted in a while. I’m in no hurry, I’m on holidays now. I don’t have to just give him a smile or a quick ‘hello’.” As we chatted, the man told me about how good it was spending time with most his family on Christmas, but that he was disappointed that his one son and his family didn’t come from out of town for a visit as they assumed he would understand as it’s a ‘busy time of year’ and that the travel is a ‘hassle.’ As the man told me this, I could tell how his son’s assumption had hurt him. I sympathized with him and carried on the conversation. What surprised me was when he asked me if he “maybe had said or done something wrong to me” recently as I had simply nodded at him or gave him a quick ‘hello’ over the past month. I assured him that this was not the case at all! That I must have had a more ‘rushed’ month than expected and was so focused on fitting in my ‘condensed’ workouts that I hadn’t been chatting with many of my ‘gym buddies.’ I then saw the relief come over the mans face as we continued to chat... I had no idea how important those ‘little’ conversations are, even in our ‘little relationships.’
When I got into my car following my workout, I realized that I have always assumed this man was ‘easy going’ and ‘was OK not chatting each time I saw him at the gym... he understands, right?”… well, I was wrong. Even these ‘little’ relationships often mean so much to the other person… much more than we even realize… especially to those who we assume aren’t ‘sensitive’ people, when, deep down, most of us truly are… something I can personally relate to as an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person).
This situation made me realize just how much the assumptions made by past romantic partners, friends, colleagues and even current ‘gym buddies’ have personally affected me… the assumptions made about how I was feeling, what I want in life in the next 5-10 years, what I truly like/dislike, and so on. What I’ve also come to truly understand is that, in our relationships, humans make the assumptions they do about others’ for three reasons:
1) Making assumptions is easy. This way, we don’t have to FULLY communicate with our partner, friend or colleague or get into to the ‘mess’ of getting/expressing the ‘entire story.’
NOTE - (*True communication that is honest, ‘real,’ considerate and vulnerable is what allows relationships to stay healthy and grow. It DOES take work, but is worth it!).
2) Making assumptions allows us to feel like we are ‘right.’ Our judgements can’t be challenged or proven wrong by the other person when we do this… everything gets to ‘continue on as it was’ (even though this is likely a ‘one-sided’ and ‘blind’ belief, ultimately leading to relationship ‘deterioration’).
3) Making assumptions allows us to avoid uncomfortable conversations/interactions and gives us a ‘way out’ (E.g. A way out of a conversation, situation, or even the entire relationship all together. We aren’t being honest with ourselves… or the other person).
NOTE - (*This is also where true communication is a key factor in not only maintaining, but continuing to grow a relationship, especially those that are romantic in nature!). I will be talking much more about ‘True Communication’ in future blogs!
Being completely honest, as I have been and always will be with my audience/clients, following my conversation with the elderly man, I felt ashamed. I felt ashamed because, as my close friends and past partners know, I really dislike when people make assumptions about and fail to fully communicate with me about any opinions, wants, needs, thoughts, concerns or feelings that they have about me or the relationship as a whole. Even though I have been the one on the receiving end of many more assumptions than I have personally made myself in my relationships as an adult, feeling the shame I did from the above situation was completely OK… It was OK because it was truly a ‘wake-up call’… an opportunity to learn and grow. And when I learn and grow, that helps me be a better Coach to my clients! And because I’ve learned how to truly be kind, understanding and forgiving to myself (and just how important it is to do those things for our own well-being), I took this situation as a learning opportunity, one that I am choosing to be conscious of for 2018 and beyond... and one that I hope you will be conscious of in all of your relationships too :) .