In every relationship there are two players, you and the other person. And much of the time our actions are made in response to the other person’s actions, they are reactions. But we also act proactively, that is, not in response to the other person but from our own initiative.
Our actions can have a positive or a negative impact. Sometimes we intend our actions to be positive but they turn out to have a negative impact. Sometimes we don’t think through our actions and things come out in a way we would not have intended had we thought it through. For example, we may have needed to say something (my feelings are hurt) but said it in a way that was hurtful (you bitch! you did that on purpose to hurt me) when it didn’t have to be; or we may have done something based on an assumption without first getting our assumptions verified or disproved (oh, you acted that way because your feelings were hurt over _____ not because of you intended to hurt me?).
One lesson that I keep learning, over and over (grimace), is to test out my assumptions before acting on them. Remember that old adage about assumptions? It goes like this: “When I assume, I make an ass out of u and me.” Somedays I think I’ve cornered the market on assumptions! Assuming anything about someone else or any situation is an attempt at mindreading. I’ve learned the hard way that I’m not always as good at reading minds as I think I am.
When you find yourself beginning to assume things are a certain way stop and ask yourself: what do you gain through your assumption? What do you lose? What evidence (real, hard, verified evidence) do you have to back up your assumption? Chances are checking out your assumptions before you act will go a long way in preventing personal damage to yourself and others.
It takes a lot of courage to check out your assumptions….who doesn’t want to be right about something?…but the gains you will make in trust, authenticity, and mental health far outweigh any false sense of gain you might have in trying to be right (and then finding out you were wrong).
By getting another perspective on a situation we can make better decisions on how to act or respond, how to be involved or get out of the way. It can help us see that some things that may seem good at the start really aren’t the best for a variety of reasons. (Note that it is OK to acknowledge there are some people or situations we just aren’t our best with no matter how hard we try.) We also gain perspective on ourselves and how others experience us, and that leads to deeper relationships, trust, personal growth and a stronger sense of who we are.
Forgiving someone else when I’ve made the wrong assumption also leads to the recognition that sometimes I need to be forgiven, too.