1. a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.
I was recently at a Leadership retreat, and one of the challenges for the week was to share at least one assumption that we had of each person on the retreat.
Sounds easy, right? “I assume you have a fabulous life”. “I assume you are a really free spirit”. “I assume you have a lot of friends”. I can get used to hearing these kinds of things!
Oh wait – did I mention that we were specifically told to focus on the “dark and shadowy” assumptions, rather than the nice, flowery, positive ones?
All of a sudden, people assuming you are awesome turns into “I assume you don’t like me”. “I assume you think that everything I say is trivial and meaningless”. “I assume that you think you’re smarter than me” (as a side note: these examples were not the ones shared about me!)
This exercise immediately became more daunting.
I learned a lot about the impact of making assumptions during the retreat, and the biggest lesson I learned is that the old saying “Don’t assume – it makes an ASS out of U and ME” is only half-true. It makes an ass out of you. The asumption-ee has nothing to do with it. The reality of assumptions is that they are always about you and have very little, if anything, to do with the other person.
I found that when I was face to face with someone that I had a really, really “dark and shadowy” assumption about, I was terrified to say it. But as I discovered, once I closed my eyes and let the words spill out of my mouth in a nervous sort of verbal diarrhea, it became totally apparent that the assumption had everything to do with ME – my perception of that person, my (mis)interpretation of an encounter we may have had, my past experience with someone similar to them, or simply a story I had created in my head about them based on nothing but my wild imagination of how they must be because of the fact that they are a mother/speak with big words/have ugly shoes/whatever .
The really unexpected yet cool thing about the exercise was that almost as soon as the words were out of my mouth, the assumption (or at least any negativity associated with it) dissolved into thin air. Just the act of voicing what I was thinking was enough to create a closer relationship with the person I was speaking to. This led to open dialogue between us, and ultimately, made me closer with some of the people in my group that I really never thought I’d be able to relate to.
We were given the option to discuss our assumptions with the person once we voiced them, and let them know what the impact our assumption had on us (ie. I assume you don’t like me, and the impact on me is that I try to avoid having one on one conversations with you). It was truly fascinating to hear myself speak about how my assumptions had changed how I was with each person in the group. It made me realize that I was missing out on forming more meaningful connections, all because of these tales that I had made up in my head and accepted as true, without any proof.
Assumption sharing is seriously awesome. It’s awesome to tell your assumptions. It’s awesome to hear what other people have made up about you. It’s just a super cool tool to adopt into every relationship that you have.
Think of how much of the bullshit you can clear up in your relationships once you start getting everything out in the open. Instead of guessing at how your friend/brother/partner is feeling, and instead of making up twisted, elaborate stories in your head about them, try having a conversation about it. You will learn how liberating it can be to share some of the shady assumptions you are carrying, and you’ll create more open, intimate and transparent connections with everyone in your life.
Because it can catch people off guard to all of a sudden start telling them what you really think of them, here’s a safe way to do it:
1. Explain to the person that you want to deepen your relationship with them, and that you feel that some of the stories you have created in your head are getting in the way of how you want to interact with them. This will help create a safe space and give the person some time to get in the right headspace to talk about it, rather than just coming at them with it like a ton of bricks and getting their defenses up.
2. Tell the person your assumption, and what the impact has been on you.
3. Then give them a chance to respond (or not – this is actually not necessary. Though it can be nice to hear their “side of the story”, and it definitely helps create space for a more open discussion).
4. Notice how much of it is about you, and where you are still placing any “blame” on the other person (remember: it’s always about you. If you’re blaming, you’re likely so caught up in your own story that you probably aren’t even hearing what the other person is saying).
Here’s to not making an ass of yourself anymore.
Happy sharing. And please, if you have any assumptions to share about me, I am all ears : )