We don’t talk nearly enough about this, so it is about time that we opened up this discussion. As a woman and a clinical psychologist I see this happening all the time and the impact that this set of beliefs has on individuals of all ages and in all walks of life. I am referring to the assumptions that we make about other people that are often erroneous. Let me give you a common example and then we will move on to specific categories. Suppose a good friend hasn’t contacted you in a week. You may assume that he or she is just not that interested in being that close to you anymore. In fact, the friend may be sick, busy or simply distracted. The erroneous assumption may lead to the loss of a good friendship.
There is a tendency among all of us to engage in a common set of assumptions that we find out too late are wrong. Let’s review them:
1. “She or he would never go out with me.” That person is out of my league. Hey, I remember a boy in college who I was crazy about. We seemed to like each other a lot but he never asked me out. Only last year he told me that he assumed that I would never go out with him. See, the assumption was wrong.
2. “He or she just wants to be my friend.” Really? Someone is doting on you, contacting you constantly and is elated to see you and you think that person just wants to be your friend? Unlikely.
3. “My teenager doesn’t need me anymore.” Your teens need you more at this point in their life than at any other point. Simply because they are moody or reluctant to talk does not mean that they no longer need your loving support.
4. “She or he justs wants to take a break to help the relationship.” Nope. The person who wants to take the break is trying to end the relationship. Don’t be fooled or be in a state of denial.
5. “He or she probably doesn’t want to be my friend because she’s so successful.” Hey, successful people are often the loneliest because others assume that they don’t need support. Not so fast here.
So how do I suggest we deal with these assumptions.
1. Don’t assume that your assumption is necessarily correct.
2. Look for evidence that supports or does not support your assumption.
3. Check out your assumptions with friends for validation.
4. Think hard before making judgments. Old ways of thinking may need to be re-examined.
5. Don’t assume that everyone thinks just like you do. Everyone has their own cognitive style.