Have you ever spent time with your spouse, parent, son or daughter, or a close friend and mentioned an idea only to have them either respond with silence or a host of questions? Or perhaps, they have mentioned something about your idea that brought some anxiety or concern to them?
What happens next? Do you calmly try to ease their minds by providing additional info or holding space for them to share their thoughts or concerns? Or, like many of us, do you assume the worst... 'they think my idea is bad', or 'they are angry at me for suggesting this' or 'they really are not open to try anything different', etc.? Are we too easy to jump to conclusions on situations because we read too much into them?
Let's consider for a moment that they may simply be processing their thoughts and want to learn more about the specifics of what you are sharing with them? Maybe it isn't that they are unwilling, but simply that their personality may naturally just be one that is more curious and they prefer having more details.
Mama always told me to "Never assume!" You may have heard that before as well. However, my mother was not one to use the word 'never' because she believed that 'we should never say never because we never know!' So, when she said not to assume numerous times, it was something I paid close attention to.
She had a little pun to add to it. I won't write it here but I'll give you a little riddle. The first three letters in the word 'assume' describe the King James term for a donkey. The last three letters tell who is made out to be the animal described in the first three letters. So, have a little fun and you will figure it out. If not, reach out to me in the comments below (You will need to click the link to my site at the bottom of this email. The comment form is displayed at the bottom of the post on my site).
I am a verbal processor so I will often repeat back a thought or an idea that is suggested to me. Sometimes, I make sound like a parrot, LOL! This is the only way I have been able to internalize what I've heard. Without verbal processing, it is also difficult for me to remember what I hear. I'm a little weird in that way!
Internal processors (they need to 'think' on it), can get really annoyed by folks who process the way I do. In fact, when we need to think on things, often it can be a real challenge to avoid assuming because we don't always experience our curiousity right out of the gate. The challenge presents itself later when questions come to mind and whoever shared the idea with us may no longer be around to provide the clarity that is needed.
We typically view the world through the lens of our own experiences, history, personality, temperament and perhaps, through the way we were raised. Additionally, we interpret words and body language in similar ways as well.
What this means in significant relationships, is that we tend to routinely misunderstand or misread what is said or done. And more importantly, we may take it personally! And then, take offense. (Note here: offenses are taken, not given, so think on that a bit).
Wrong assumptions and mistaken perceptions typically increase conflict in relationships, and can often lead to damaging arguments. This is especially true in marriage and other close relationships.
Here are some negative patterns to be on the look out for, in order to avoid negative relational issues:
1) Pay attention to your thoughts and perceptions. When you notice you are making assumptions, ask yourself, "Is this perception accurate? Or am I reading too much into this?"
2) Be aware of the lenses that you are seeing life through. When my oldest daughter was a teenager, she once stated to me a simple but profound truth. She said, "Life is a perception issue, Mom. It is what we perceive it to be, whether or not it is true". Such wisdom! Our perspectives can be accurate or they can be terribly distorted at times. Consider the experiences that you've had that have shaped the way you view life: anger, fear, loss or rejection, shame or guilt, hopelessness, perfectionism, people pleasing, avoidance, or withdrawal, etc. When you are processing what someone may mean when they are saying or doing something that you are uncertain about, ask yourself if you are observing their words or actions through any of these lenses that may have caused much difficulty for you.
3) Identify negative thoughts and feelings that may surface as you listen to what your loved one is saying. (One major issue to be aware of here is to be sure you are actively listening. Active listening means not interrupting and not focusing on what or how you will respond... just listen!) Bring your negative thoughts or feelings out in the open and pose them as questions to gain greater clarity and avoid the risk of harming the relational connection.
4) Make the effort to move your thoughts in a more accurate direction. Our thoughts have a lot of power to move us forward or mislead us in destructive ways that hold us back. This is especially important to remember. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 10:15, "Take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ". If you find that you are tempted to make wrong or negative assumptions, pause before you react, and consider if the lens you are viewing the situation through may be distorted.
By putting these strategies into practice, you can avoid rocky relationships. Letting go of your assumptions and focusing on what your loved one is actually trying to communicate helps clear up false assumptions and expectations that lead to misunderstandings, and provide for more pleasant and joy-filled relationships!
If this is an encouragement for you, please share with the other amazing women in your life!
Sheri Geyer is a Relationship Coach for Christian Women*
*And women seeking to learn more about a relationship with Jesus Christ!
Are YOU Ready to Transform Negative Patterns into Healthy Boundaries and create Joy-Filled ❤️Relationships? If so, we need to talk!
I'd like to invite you to Join me on a 5-day Journey to do a deeper dive into discovering how you can find and maintain more joy-filled relationships... Sign up for Free here: https://joyfilledrelationships.com/landing/five-days
My Online Group Coaching Program has begun -- https://joyfilledrelationships.com/application. Consider checking it our and signing up now (during the developmental stage) and receive huge discounts before 2024!