The Art of No Assumptions

Contributed by Dr. Marta Adelsman

In one of my workshops, I lead participants through an exercise in which they talk briefly with a partner about their morning routine. However, both partners speak at the same time. At the end of the exercise, no one can report hearing more than a word or two of what their partner said.

The exercise illustrates how, during most conversations, the assumptions and opinions we hold in our minds prevent us from truly hearing each other. We make stuff up about the meaning and motivations of others, and these act like loud noise in the brain.

Believing that our assumptions are true can set up all kinds of relational drama and confusion. For instance, you might hold the opinion that someone meant to criticize you, so you begin to formulate a defensive response. Maybe you assume that the person in front of you is uninteresting and has nothing important to say, so you begin to plan your weekend activities.

In these instances, your assumptions disrupt true conversation by having you stop listening. They may lead to misunderstandings in which anger, defensiveness, fear and anxiety arise. They provide the ego with opportunities to make judgments or to feel like a victim. Harsh words may fly, which can then lead to more made-up stuff. You can see how making assumptions leads to personal suffering.

The good news is that there’s a way out. It starts with becoming suspicious of all of your assumptions. Next, begin to check out whether or not your assumed opinions are true. “I’m making up that you meant to criticize me when you said that. Is that true? Am I reading it right?” Hearing it from their own lips is the only way you know what others really mean.

If someone accuses you of being negligent, rather than becoming defensive, ask, “What’s your definition of the word ‘negligent?’” Have the courage to ask for clarification. Keep asking questions until you know you have absolute clarity about what the other person meant. Clarify, and then clarify some more.

This practice opens you to true listening. Others will feel grateful, because they will feel heard. You will decrease the drama and upsets in your conversations. Your relationships will become more satisfying.

Isn’t the extra effort required to practice this new skill worth it?

Dr. Marta Adelsman has a doctorate in Psychology and is also a Life Coach. She specializes in the area of listening and communication, as well as spiritual consciousness. She leads workshops and coaching sessions for couples, individuals and groups, supporting them to have relationships that are free from drama and upset. For more information about upcoming workshops, click here to contact Marta.

Mary Cravets

Founder Mary Cravets started Simply Get Clients because she saw small business owners complicating growing their businesses. Or falling victim to the "build it and they will come" myth. So she developed the simple structure to cut through all the noise of social media, "experts", online funnels, advertising and more to focus on the central problem of business owners: getting more clients. And you know what? There is NOT a one-size-fits-all solution.

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