Emotion Commotion: Don’t Make Assumptions

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Written by Kimberly Elmore

Over the next several issues of Identity, let’s take a different approach to better understand our emotions. I’d like to tell you about a book that really helped me get a grasp on how I feel and why. It’s called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Last time, we spoke of the first agreement in The Four Agreements book by Don Miguel Ruiz, Be Impeccable With Your Word, and before that we spoke of my personal favorite (and the second agreement), Don’t Take Anything Personally.

Understand the Third Agreement

Now let’s examine and understand the third agreement, “Don’t Make Assumptions”. Don’t we all do that? Make assumptions.

Whether we make assumptions about what a person meant by what they said or what a person meant by what they did if we don’t ask for clarification, we make assumptions. I know I’ve been guilty of making assumptions!

The scary thing about making assumptions is that it can lead to creating unnecessary drama. As Ruiz says, “The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth.”

We could swear they are real. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking, we take it personally, and then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word.”

That emotional poison Ruiz speaks of is otherwise known as gossip. We then feel the need to justify and explain our feelings about a particular person or circumstance, so we go around and tell our friends our perception (which is really based on assumptions) of that particular person or circumstance.

Many people are afraid to ask for clarification, which only fuels our assumptions leading us to really, truly believe they are the truth.

Often times, we see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear we dream things up in our imagination. Think about it. Has there been a time when, for example, a friend has said or done something that hurt your feelings and instead of asking that friend for clarification, you dream up in your mind an entire scenario about why your friend said or did whatever?

You play the whole thing out in your mind! But, if you chose to ask that friend some questions to better understand him or her, you would avoid having that angry and/or upsetting confrontation in your head. You may even discover that reality is much less dramatic.

Several years ago a co-worker said to me, “Girl, I’m brave when I’m talking to myself” In other words, she was saying that when she would “dream up” in her mind how a confrontation would go down, she was brave and strong-willed, but when it came down to actually confronting someone, she’d chicken out.

We are all guilty of it…being so direct and brave in our minds when it comes to talking with someone about an offense or hurt feelings. But, when it comes down to actually having said conversation with the other person, often times we convince ourselves not to go through with it — staying pissed off and making assumptions is much easier.

Understand the Exceptions

Now of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Not every friend is easily questioned. It’s been my experience that certain friends, no matter how politely you ask for clarification, will get defensive and the conversation does end up becoming unnecessarily drama filled.

But, that’s when the prior two agreements come into play: don’t take anything personally and be impeccable with your word. If you don’t take anything personally, you’ll be able to realize that your friend’s defensiveness is about him or her, not you.

If you are impeccable with your word, you will choose to confront your friend by using non-accusing words that focus on strengthening your relationship, not breaking it down. You are in control of how you approach the conversation, how your friend reacts is not in your control.

Ruiz also explains that we make the assumption that everyone sees life as we do. Ruiz says, “We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse.

He also says that this is why making assumptions can be so damaging to relationships. When your boyfriend or husband doesn’t do what you thought they would, you think “he should have known better or “if he loves me, he would know what I want or how I feel”.

Ruiz also addresses the assumption that many have in romantic relationships, “My love will change this person”. He says that often times when entering into a relationship you will justify why you like the person because you only see what you want to see and deny there are things you don’t like about that person.

Then when you get hurt, you suddenly see what you did’t want to see before and now you blame the other person for your choices.

Real love, says Ruiz, is accepting people the way they are without trying to change them. If you try to change someone, you don’t really like who they are. Be who you are and let others be who they are, don’t present a false image.

In my opinion, the key to not making assumptions boils down to three C’s:

Courage, clarity, and communication. We need to have the courage to ask questions so that we can have clarity regarding what was said or done, in turn, opening up lines of communication. When you clearly and directly communicate, there’s no room for assumptions to be made.

Unfortunately, this is not how most humans interact. Most of us choose to, well, make assumptions! And that choice is based on fear, and that’s why having courage plays a vital role in overcoming assumptions.

So, how about giving it a try? The next time you’re tempted to make an assumption, muster up the courage to ask questions. When you choose to communicate you’ll quickly notice that you encounter fewer misunderstandings and less unnecessary drama!

In the next issue, we’ll examine the fourth agreement: Always Do Your Best.

About the author

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Kimberly Elmore

Identity writer Kimberly Elmore is currently employed by Delta Dental of New Jersey in the corporate communications department as the community relations coordinator. She serves as one of our top and longest contributors.

Kimberly has been a huge part of Identity's success since the beginning of 2006. During Kimberly's college years she served as the arts & entertainment editor of her college newspaper and interned in the public relations department at the March of Dimes.

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