One of the Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, states:
DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS
I didn’t learn about not reading others’ minds until I was in my early thirties. I pursued this aim long before then, but not until I understood the Four Agreements would I admit I was doing it. See, I thought I knew, without asking, how other people felt. I was always mortified if I didn’t already know the answers to school questions, even when I was seeing or hearing the material for the first time. I polluted my marriages with my reactions to things my partners never expressed. I even believed that I knew more about them than they knew about themselves. How insane is that?
I am an assumer. I am recovering, but every day I catch myself — I drift back into my old habits, and I think and feel for everyone, not just myself. Here there be dragons! I started recovering when I thought about others telling me how I feel or what I think. Just the thought made me angry enough to realize that if I didn’t like it, neither would the people whose minds I thought I could read.
We as a society, at least in my generation and my parents’ generation, encourage each other to act like we already knew these details about people in our lives. It still gets to me when someone says, “I know you were happy about that,” when he or she has not asked me how I felt. After a great deal of life review, I know I was happier then than I remember now, but that does not give anyone permission to tell me how I felt, or how I feel now. To do so is to show a high level of disrespect — well, I have done it to others, and others have done it to me.
When we base our opinions, feelings, or actions on what we believe the other is feeling, we are living by assumption. Few more dangerous traps exist in interpersonal relationships. Assumptions lead to misunderstanding and resentment, frustration, and anger.
Who needs more of that in their lives? Now I remind myself that I can, and should, ask the questions, and not start down a path based on conjecture and non-existent mind-reading. This is one of those lessons it’s never too late to learn. Ask, don’t assume. For me, that’s the ticket to living a more balanced, peaceful life — the very life I seek.