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How To Stop Making Assumptions In Life, Relationships, & Work

Updated on 11 November 2020 • 6 minute read
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Assumptions in life: 

“We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything.

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 – we then blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word.” 

– Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Four Agreements” 

What is an assumption? 

An assumption is anything that’s accepted as truth without evidence or proof. 

We all make many assumptions daily, most of the time, without realizing it. 

They can be small assumptions like assuming there’ll be food at a party, or they can be significant assumptions like thinking that people can’t be trusted.

Hence, you have a hard time establishing intimate connections. 

Assumptions can also be learned behavior stemming from unquestioned beliefs that we’ve been programmed to accept as real because “that’s how it’s done,” or that’s how we saw it done in our cultures or our families.

In this way, we take on others’ assumptions as our own and lose our sense of agency. 

Watch for assumption red flags like when the words like “should,” “have to,” or “must” are used: 

  • “I should stay at home with my kids instead of working.” 
  • “She didn’t reply to my text, so she must not like me.” 
  • “My partner isn’t talking much, so he/she/they must be upset with me.”
  • “I have to lose weight to be truly beautiful.” 

 

The problem with unquestioned assumptions

“All the sadness and drama you have lived in your life was rooted in making assumptions and taking things personally.” 

– Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Four Agreements” 

Assumptions that go unchecked or unchallenged create negative thinking loops and can poison your mind and life.

Your thoughts and beliefs create literal changes in the cells of your body.

Walking around with unchallenged negative thoughts can cost you your health, wealth, relationships, and work. 

Dr. Daniel Amen, neuroscientist and author of “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” refers to these unchallenged assumptions and negative thoughts as ANTS – automatic negative thoughts.

Like ants at a picnic, one or two isn’t a problem, but the more you see, the more keep coming until you finally have an infestation.

Infestations in your mind result in symptoms like stress, anxiety, anger, blaming, resentment, worry, aggression, and even a weakened body or immunity. 

You can’t address this infestation unless you train your mind to question what you believe is real.

 

Assumptions in relationships: 

“Making assumptions in our relationships is really asking for problems. 

Often we make the assumption that our partners know what we think and that we don’t have to say what we want. 

We assume they are going to do what we want because they know us so well. 

If they don’t do what we assume they should do, we feel so hurt and say, ‘you should have known better.’ 

– Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Four Agreements” 

Assuming, not communicating, not listening, and not asking questions are four poisons in any relationship.

It doesn’t have to be a love relationship; this applies to our connections with family, friends, and co-workers or peers as well. 

We tend to create relationships dynamics that mirror or are influenced by what was modeled to us as children.

(Keep in mind that our minds were highly influenceable from 0-6 years old.)

Where have you adopted assumptions, patterns, or learned behavior from your parents or caregivers?

Maybe you believe you have to yell to be heard, or perhaps you think you should stay quiet and keep your feelings to yourself not to rock the boat. 

“Real love is accepting other people the way they are without trying to change them. 

If we try to change them, this means we don’t really like them.” 

– Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Four Agreements” 

Assumptions in relationships cause cracks and damage because the aftermath is often that the other person, if left feeling unseen, unheard, and misunderstood.

Over time, this chips away at a relationship’s trust, affection, and bond.

But there’s a remedy for this, and it starts by offering yourself and the other person grace and empathy.

Give the person the benefit of the doubt. 

Learn to ask quality questions.

Question what you believe to be true.

Be prepared to listen with your full attention.

Speak your truth and communicate with love instead of blame. 

 

Assumptions at work: 

Allowing your unchecked assumptions to run rampant in your work life can cost you.

You may over or underestimate yourself and your capabilities.

Your brain is a problem-solving, solution-seeking machine.

It seeks patterns to make sense of your world and complete your story. 

Assumptions block creativity, lower productivity, and can lower self-confidence.

Sometimes, your unchallenged assumptions might keep you from aiming higher, meeting your goals, or following your intuition.

We’re often too busy making assumptions to problem-solve and find creative or innovative solutions. 

 

7 Steps To Stop Making Assumptions: 

1. Acknowledge they happen. (And often.) 

It’s not about never making assumptions again, but instead learning to recognize when we’re making them.

Preferably at the moment, or as close to the moment as possible to avoid unnecessary suffering or discomfort. 

 

2. Connect to your heart’s intelligence daily and regularly. 

“We only see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. 

We don’t perceive things the way they are.” 

– Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Four Agreements” 

Assumptions taint the lenses through which we perceive reality.

They give us an incomplete picture of what is happening.

You can counter any assumption-making patterns by learning to connect to your heart’s intelligence on the regular.

Did you know that you have a brain in your heart?

Yup, you read that right – your heart-brain is made up of about 40,000 neurons.

You can take advantage of this innate intelligence by breathing slowly with your lower belly.

This simple act has been shown to help your heart-brain come online.

You can learn to override assumption-making patterns by activating heart intelligence. 

 

3. Ask questions. (Incessantly.) 

It is always better to ask questions than to make an assumption because assumptions set us up for suffering.” 

– Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Four Agreements” 

This is one of the most influential and essential things you can do to control your mind and assumptions.

Get in the habit of asking yourself questions multiple times a day.

By developing the habit of self-inquiry, you’re putting the yogic principle of Svadhyaya (self-study) into practice. 

You can start with questions like: 

  • How do I feel about this? 
  • What do I want to feel? 
  • Is this true? 
  • Can I know this to be 100% true? 

Ask others questions, too, both in your relationships and at work.

Learn to ask questions instead of making your mind up or adopting beliefs on the fly.

If there’s one thing you can assume, it’s that you don’t have the full picture!

Suppose you don’t understand the whole story.

This will push you to ask more questions. Don’t allow the fear of a negative response to keep you from asking. 

 

4. Listen with your full attention. 

Once you’ve asked the questions, be prepared to listen – with your full attention and whole heart.

Don’t listen to be right. Don’t listen so you can justify it.

Learn to be completely present with the person you’re listening to understand where they’re coming from.

Be interested in their feelings more than you’re interested in being right or in your own story. 

This also applies to yourself. Learn to ask yourself questions and listen to the answers.

Create quiet time and space and cultivate stillness so you can hear the answers.

This will help you develop true self-awareness, self-confidence, and stronger intuition.

You can then use your intuition to discern real from unreal and reality from fear. 

 

5. Bring mindfulness into your daily life. 

Assumptions are lightning-fast. And most of the time, stem from the unconscious.

The antidote to fast assumptions is a mindful brain.

Learning to incorporate mindfulness into your days can help you discern an assumption and catch them faster. 

 

6. Breathe through emotional reactions and uncomfortable assumptions. 

Your breath is your friend; learn how to use it to your advantage.

By controlling the breath (pranayama), you can override emotional reactions and move through uncomfortable assumptions.

Slow, deep inhales, holds, and exhales can help you regulate your body and thinking.

Even just 2-5 minutes of pranayama breathing can make a big difference. 

 

7. Meditate to workout your thinking muscle.

Adopting a regular meditation practice can strengthen the mindful and non-reactive parts of your brain, much like a regular workout schedule will tone your abs or arms.

The more “toned” your mind, the less likely you will assume and create more suffering.

Try this 12-minute guided meditation to help get you started. 

 

Remember, the objective isn’t to be right or justified; it’s to gain a deeper understanding and awareness.

These seven tips can boost your journey if you apply them. 

 

 

 

 

 

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