Picture this. You are walking down the sidewalk one day and across the street, walking towards you is a friend that you haven’t seen in a while. They look up and you wave. They don’t wave back, they put their head back down and keep walking.
What’s the first thought that goes through your head?
Many people’s gut response to this situation would be to think that the person was upset with them about something. This one thought then propels them into a waterfall of negative thinking and subsequently, negative emotions. They have made an assumption that the friend that they waved to both saw them and purposely ignored them. As a result, they are angry, hurt, irritated and have a hard time letting the incident go and getting on with their day.
We make assumptions all the time. We take a situation, assess it, decide what is happening, all based on our perception and often not based in reality. We believe our assumptions with great conviction, as if we had actual proof that our read on the situation is accurate.
Making assumptions is a sure-fire way to keep yourself stuck in negative emotions. Assumptions are often automatic, and many of us have patterns of making negative assumptions that have been in place for years. If you experience a great deal of negativity in your life, no doubt you are making assumptions. Learning how to recognize, interrupt, and transform them can completely change your level of stress and your feelings of happiness in your daily life.
So take the scenario above, and imagine if your first thought when the friend doesn’t wave back is, well, maybe they didn’t see me or maybe they are having a tough day and are distracted. How do you think you might feel if your automatic assumption was this instead of , they must be mad at me or they purposefully ignored me?
How to Stop Making Assumptions
To change any thinking or behavior pattern in our lives, we must first become aware that it is happening, then we must be willing to put the work into changing it. This is mind work, all based on working with your thoughts to create more happiness.
Step 1. Pay attention to when you are feeling negative emotions such as anger, sadness, hurt. Ask yourself, am i making an assumption about anything?
in the example above, the answer to this question would be yes. the assumption is that the person purposefully ignored you
Step 2. Do I have proof that this is 100% true?
in the example, the answer is no, you have no evidence that your assumption is true.
Step 3. Ask yourself, what else could it be? Are there any other explanations other than the one you have chosen?
in the example, the alternative explanations are that the person didn’t see you or is having a tough day and distracted
Step 4. Ask yourself, is there anything I can do to get more information so I can stop assuming and let this go?
in the example, it might be giving the friend a call to see if they are upset with you.
Step 5. If you are unwilling or unable to do step 4, choose the rational thought, the one that helps you feel less negatively and keeps you more grounded in reality.
FEELING CHALLENGE: Try to become aware of how assumptions impact your feeling state, your attitude, and your daily life. Give the steps above a try and see if they make a difference in how you feel. Remember, assumptions often come from a place of fear and insecurity, not reality. Getting a handle on them is another tool to set yourself free from stress and unhappiness.