The other day, I drove home pondering about what I wanted to eat that night. I was off work early as was the husband and so I assumed that we would head out for dinner. I had briefly mentioned going out before I left for work that morning. So I had narrowed it down in my head to burgers at one of the local burger joints. I walked in the door and I heard the shower turn off. Perfect timing I thought, we’ll soon be on our way for burgers ….
[perhaps you’re thinking, this isn’t going to end well. No worries, there is acutally a happy ending]
[but, notice the spiral. I start by pondering dinner and now I seemingly have my heart set on burgers. At this point, zero conversations have occurred. I’ve created a perfect little world that is all in my head.]
So, the husband comes out and I ask, hey do you have any ideas about where to head for dinner. Inside, I’m thinking ‘burgers, we want burgers’, but asking is always the polite first step. He responds ‘hey, I was thinking about eating in. I already made some oriental chicken, we just have to make some rice’. [yet another side note, the husband doesn’t cook that often … this was no where on my expectation grid]
So, at this point, I need to make choice. Go with my preconceived little world and demand the hypothetical burgers. Stay home and grudgingly eat the oriental chicken. Or rearrange my expectations and savor a home cooked meal.
I’m glad to report that I wisely chose door number three and both the meal and the conversation were great.
But there’s been times when I haven’t been wise. Instead, I’ve been so entrenched in my expectations that I was either unwilling to consider another perspective or be grateful for a different option.
There’s not many things that derail my interactions and relationships faster than assumptions.
Assumptions, and their close relatives expectations, infiltrate every part of my life. For me, assumptions show up when I create a story line that I expect another person to fill. It can be at home over dinner or at work over a project. In my best (worst) moments, I can also create roles for people I don’t even know such as the receptionist at the doctor’s office or the cashier in the coffee line.
The problems with assumptions are many, but three stand out to me right now.
First, there’s extreme arrogance is assuming I know what another person is thinking or planning without discussing it with them.
Second, unspoken expectations rupture relationships. The person on the other side doesn’t even get a fair chance to know or understand what I want, much even less begin to fill them.
Third, assumptions rob me of joy. When I focus on what I don’t have, I fail to enjoy what I do have.
As Henry Winkler said, “assumptions are the termites of relationships“. And who wants termites in their life?
So, what’s the alternative? Well, there’s this really crazy thing called ‘talking about it’. ‘Talking about it‘ is closely related to ‘asking questions‘ and ‘listening to the other person‘. When I remember to practice asking, listening, and talking instead of assuming, expecting, and jumping to conclusions, my life’s a lot better. I probably get more home-cooked meals too :)