Communication can be so complex and challenging! Sometimes people don’t understand what we’re trying to say. Sometimes what we say isn’t what we mean. Sometimes what we hear isn’t what’s being said. But, it’s even harder when we say nothing! I tell people all the time “don’t function from assumption” meaning clarify, clarify, clarify! I often hear clients say they are conflict averse. They don’t want to engage in that conversation because they’re ‘afraid it will turn into a fight.’ But what if we re-framed that thought and instead of assuming the conversation will become a heated debate, we approached it as an opportunity to clarify. Clarification brings a sense of non-threatening, pleasant resolution. When we approach a dialog with clarification as the goal, we are seeking to understand something deeper, even if we disagree.
Assumptions get us into trouble. Even little ones. When we assume something in someone else, we have the potential to be easily disappointed or worse, our unmet assumption could turn into resentment. All the while, the other person had no idea that’s what was expected. Take this simple example of an assumption gone wrong…..
It’s Friday night and you and your partner have had a long week. You’re assuming since it’s been a long week and you’re feeling worn out and the last thing you assume you both want to do is stay home, figure out what to cook for dinner and clean it all up. You assume it would be great to go out to eat! Your partner is assuming since it’s been a long week and you’re both feeling worn out and the last thing they assume you both want to do is go out for dinner. See the misfiring here? And this is a very basic example, not a heavy one laden with deep history or baggage. But just think, if you didn’t take the opportunity to clarify what you’re both assuming, at some point when those lines of thought meet up, one of you would be disappointed or upset or one might feel taken advantage of or worse.
Clarification doesn’t take away the fact that we may still disagree, but it does help us understand the other person’s perspective more thoroughly and that can make all the difference. When we understand something deeper, we are less likely to spin a story about it that isn’t true. We are less likely to become triggered into a shame spiral. We are less likely to feel victimized by the other person or the world in general. We are just clarifying our assumptions and expectations that may or may not be true and that feels clean and simple, not muddy and complex.
So remember next time you’re starting to get too far into your own thoughts about something, don’t function from assumption. Stop, listen and clarify!