Don’t Make Assumptions
There is a great little book that I read years ago, and still re-read today called “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. Don Miguel is a Toltec Indian from Mexico and comes from a long chain of teachers and healers in that ancient tradition. The four agreements that the title refers to are four statements that if you make an agreement to practice and actually put them to work, will improve the quality and satisfaction of your life.
One of these agreements is The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions. This agreement as explained by Don Miguel is necessary because we not only make a lot of assumptions in our lives, we actually start believing they are the truth. Not only that but we react strongly and negatively when someone challenges these assumptions and will often defend them to the point of throwing away relationships because someone will not accept our assumptions; our version of reality.
And it is in relationships that most of the damage is done with assumptions. We assume that the people we choose to love will know what we want without ever having to tell them. And when they don’t deliver to us what we expected we get mad with them. Don’t say you have never done this. We have all done this, some of us many times.
Another big assumption we make is that when we fall in love we sometimes think that our love can change the other person, or at least those aspects that we would like them to change. But love and relationships and change don’t work that way. People change because they want to change, not because of anything that we would like to see happen. Think about every woman who has married an alcoholic thinking they can get them to moderate their drinking. Think about every man who marries a woman thinking that they will stop shopping after they are married. Forget about it. Not going to happen!!
The way to stop making assumptions, according to Don Miguel Ruiz is to ask questions before getting into a situation, especially a relationship. If you are unsure what someone else is thinking or feeling ask questions. Unless you are a mind reader you cannot possibly know for sure what is going on in someone else’s mind or heart. If you don’t ask you are making an assumption, and you are likely going to be both wrong and disappointed.
There are lots of other things we should be doing to improve the quality of our lives and our relationships, but not making assumptions is not a bad place to start.
Mike Martin is the author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People.
He is also the author of The Walker on the Cape, a Sgt. Windflower mystery.