An exciting prospect that first brought you joy is now being clouded over by doubt, anxiety, and depression. If you want to banish these feelings, you will need to learn how to avoid making assumptions.
Everyone makes assumptions from time to time, but why is it so easy to do so? What happens along this mental gauntlet that draws us towards such falsehoods?
And while it’s simple to suggest that you should just stop postulating, it’s easier to have the proper tools to help manage this behavior. Let’s explore the journey that these beliefs take us on, to understand and conquer the process.
1. Where Do Assumptions Come From?
Think back to a time when you granted a piece of information; perhaps you scored a job interview or someone that you liked asked you out on a date. How did you initially feel? Chances are, you were excited to hear this news, right?
But somewhere between receiving this info and the actuality of the situation, your mind shifted to a negative place. Doubt may have started to creep in and then perhaps worry.
All of a sudden, this once positive news has now been transformed into something negative. But the craziest part is that nothing actually happened yet. What caused the downward spiral from being excited to feeling anxious?
So why do choose to make assumptions in the first place?
“The reality is that your perception of the situation, or any situation for that matter, is truly determined by your beliefs.” And the reason that most assumptions are false is that your beliefs about a situation or a person are not always factual.
By practicing mindfulness, you may be able to pause your mental journey as it unravels into a dark place. As thoughts of doubt or worry or even excitement form, take a moment to examine them and comprehend them as your feelings and not as facts.
2. The Negative Effects of Assumptions
As mentioned above, assumptions are mainly problematic because a lot of the time, these are not based on truth. As a result, some repercussions form because of these limiting beliefs.
The residual effect from dangerous assumptions can spillover from your mind, poisoning your work and personal relationships. Even if the reasoning behind your assumptions is seemingly innocent (i.e., you are acting in defense or strategizing against potential disappointment), the consequences far outweigh the advantages.
To understand the detriment, let’s examine the ways in which making assumptions can negatively impact your life. This list can be useful when weighing the pros and cons of your behavior.
Assumptions temporarily absolve you of any responsibility. When you jump to a conclusion without having all of the facts, you end up placing blame on an outside source. This impairs your ability to become more self-aware.
Assumptions are the fastest way to create misunderstanding. It is perfectly normal and healthy to stand up for yourself if you feel that you have been done wrong. But assuming and knowing are entirely different, and when assumptions turn to accusations, it is the quickest way to create conflict.
Assumptions create negative thought patterns. Assuming the worst of someone or a situation will cloud your thinking, making it challenging to see the good. Even ‘overly-positive’ assumptions (such as believing that you nailed a job interview before formally being hired) can have adverse effects, especially if you don’t get the job.
Assumptions can be habit-creating. We all make assumptions, but engaging in this pattern of behavior over time will only serve to create a bad habit. If we do not practice being self-aware, it can be easy to jump from a fact to a feeling without pausing to take a conscious look at our actions.
Making assumptions removes possibilities from your life. When you rely on your belief system to make decisions and from which to draw conclusions, you leave little room for the wonder of opportunity. Your assumptions will keep you stuck on a narrow path that refuses to acknowledge outside variables.
3. How To Stop Assuming What Others Are Thinking
It is entirely possible to cease the mental anguish that results from making assumptions. Sure there is some superficial comfort found in this pattern of behavior; otherwise, you would not be caught up in the vicious cycle of controlling beliefs.
However, considering the drawbacks that come along with this habit, you should find an exit plan so that you can provide yourself with peace of mind. Below are some helpful tips to consider if you want to learn how to stop making assumptions.
Practice mindfulness when you find yourself resorting back to your beliefs. If you can catch yourself early in the process, you may be able to stop before assumptions get the best of you. One tactic is to write down your beliefs in a journal so that you can see them in front of you, rather than being carried away by your thoughts.
Decide to ask questions instead. Before you jump to a conclusion, scale back by first asking questions, particularly those that begin with "what" or "how." These inquiries will help to center your mind by focusing on factual information.
Learn to be ok with losing control. Assumptions initially make us feel safe because they provide a false sense of security. But the reality is that if your beliefs are determining your actions, you probably have less control than you think.
Have you ever heard the phrase, "when you assume, you make an ass out of you and me"? The act of making assumptions involves creating a narrative in your head that you believe to be true without having factual information to base it on.
When you imagine something to be accurate, you run the risk of making yourself look foolish or worse; you could hurt someone or destroy a relationship or ruin a potential opportunity. If you can learn how to avoid making assumptions, you will create more harmony between yourself and others.