You’ve just finished making an extravagant meal for your significant other. You’ve put an immense amount of effort into its preparation in anticipation of this planned date night that you scheduled weeks ago. From the careful selection of the ingredients at the market to the detailed presentation and layout of the table, you couldn’t be prouder of the feast and ambiance you’ve created. You wash up, put on your favorite dress and sit with wild anticipation for your lover’s arrival. You look at the clock. Quarter to 5.
Okay. He’ll be here soon.
But those 5 minutes quickly turns to 10, 15, 20…
You pace the floor and send him another text message as your attempted voice calls continuously go straight to voicemail.
With each passing minute of his lateness, the dinner grows colder as your emotions take you on a tumultuous ride from annoyance, anger, fear and disappointment. Your mind begins to create castles of ideas of where he could be, what he is thinking, what he is doing…
“That good for nothing jerk! He’s ditching me on our date night. I bet he’s off with that woman from the office that I met at their company holiday party. I hated the way she smiled at him! I had a feeling he was up to no good. Wait until he hears what I have to say to him…”
The power of your imagination spins out of control.
Then you hear the door click. As soon as his eyes meets yours, you explode and unload on him the plethora of accusations you had formed in your head.
And then… somehow.. he manages to explain the various unfortunate events that lead to his tardiness and lack of communication.
- His phone died.
- He gets a flat tire.
- He stopped to get you flowers.
You stand stunned… embarrased, even...
And suddenly, you realize that instead of being available to support
your boyfriend after a challenging time, you projected fears and insecurities onto him,
turning what could’ve been a salvageable date into a sour ending.
I imagine we can all think of situations similar to this one, where our thoughts got away from us. I think most humans have the deeply ingrained habit of making assumptions about… well, everything.
When the mind cannot explain certain events,
- We tend to form theories on shear imagination alone
- We assume our own stories are the absolute truth
- We forget (or refuse) to ask for truth from the other person, believing that anything they say will be a lie.
Do Better… Skip the Assumptions
In making assumptions, we will find ourselves in a trail of unmet needs, both on our account as well as for others.
- Ask non-assuming, open-ended questions
- Ie: What happened tonight?
- What thoughts were you having while this was happening?
- Be upfront, but flexible, with your feelings
- Ie: I felt really hurt tonight when you didn’t show up.
- Thank you for explaining everything to me. I’m still feeling a bit hurt. I understand much better now, but I may need a half hour or so to come back to happy. I still want to continue on with our date night, do you?
The truth is, there’s really no way to determine how or why things happen as they do. Can you remain receptive to the grand mystery of it all? Can you come to a place of accepting the world as it is instead of how you’d prefer it to be?
When we learn to calm and silence the mental chatter of our mind, we’ll be left with a much more enjoyable version of reality than the one we had previously known.
In this new space, we make room for things to be exactly as they are, leading way to deeper clarity and understanding.
Don’t Read Between the Lines
~What did my best friend mean when she said that? ~That thing that guy did rubbed me the wrong way. ~Why did my mom express that thought like that?
Instead of guessing the intention behind someone’s words or actions, ask them what they meant when they spoke. There’s no need to decipher meaning when we have the ability to communicate our need for understanding.
In my experience, when I have taken this route, I’ve found time and again that there was no ill intent behind the words or actions directed towards me.
As individuals, we all have unique “hot buttons,” or sensitivities, created by our experiences that even our closest friends cannot always anticipate. We think they should know how we think and feel because they’re so close to us, but they’re probably busy thinking the same thing about us - that we should know exactly what they’re thinking and feeling.
By asking questions, we shine light on the truth of any given situation and avoid unnecessary, hurt feelings.
- Give others the benefit of the doubt.
- Request clarity from them before diving to the conclusion that their intention was to cause harm.
In doing so, you better support your loved ones in understanding your needs, and you can understand their needs better as well.
And be willing to compromise in any situation that doesn’t conflict with your values.
Telling your partner “I’m tired of you coming home late without texting me,” is much different than “It genuinely hurts my feelings when you come home late without texting me.”
We have the power to:
- Create greater harmony and openness in our relationships.
- Completely transform our way of communicating with each other.
- End the needless suffering in our relationships caused by mistaken assumptions.
When we ask clarifying questions and speak to our wants, everyone involved feels more supported, honored and seen.
Through this practice, we begin to see the world as it is, not how we prefer or think it should be. And in this unveiling to truth, we begin to discover beauties we had not previously seen.