When I was a freshmen in high school, I joined the track team. I learned a lot about myself and others during this time, like, for example, just how stinky a high school weight room can get and that the young men didn’t seem to notice.
The most important lesson I learned was on the first day of practice, when my coach, who was also my Spanish teacher, walked up to the chalk board (’cause we still used that antiquated method of communication back then) and wrote the word ‘ASSUME’ in big block letters.
He then turned around, and launched into a spiel about pushing each other, working as a team and communicating clearly for everyone’s benefit. He turned back to the board and separated the word with underlines.
ASS U ME
Of course, being that we were stupid kids, we all gave a little, immature chuckle, to which he got a very rare, stern look on his face (this guy always wore a smile).
“When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME,” he said.
And he was right. Assumptions have serious repercussions. That was a lesson that still sticks in my head, nearly 17 years later.
Over and over and over, throughout my adult life, I’ve been reminded how true this is.
There’s always someone who assumes that he or she:
- Has a problem that is bigger than that of everyone else
- Has a problem that isn’t worthy of others’ attention
- Shouldn’t share what’s happening in his or her life, for fear of judgment
- Is always being judged
- Isn’t being noticed
- Is always being noticed
- Isn’t being heard or cared for
- Is better than everyone else
- Is worse than everyone else
- Is always right
- Is always wrong
- Can do no wrong
- Can do no right
- Has to live up to others’ expectations
- Knows what others’ expectations are
- Is misunderstood
- Is completely understood
- Is being treated unfairly
- Sees the real truth in any given situation
- Is the only one who sees the truth
I could go on forever, because you can look around any school, workplace, church or Starbucks and see these assumptions at play.
But is it right to assume you know who’s who?
The truth is this. Everyone has his or her own personal truth. It’s part of what makes us complex creatures. We all have our triumphs, hardships, pains, joys, challenges, talents, griefs and insecurities. They just aren’t the same.
The next time someone cuts you off at a red light, don’t assume she wasn’t paying attention, which may have been the case, or it may not. Maybe she just got the phone call that her kid broke his arm in gym class.
The next time some guy looks away at the coffee shop, don’t assume he’s being arrogant. Maybe he’s shy and embarrassed that you caught him looking.
The next time you’re at the brink, don’t assume that nobody cares. Talk to someone. Let them know what you’re thinking; what you’re feeling. And don’t assume you know what they think or feel about what you’re saying.
Assumptions are relationship killers, ladies and gents. Whether the relationship is 20 years old, or crashed-carts-at-the-market-with-a-hottie new. If you accept assumptions as truth, you’re dooming your relationship, no matter who it’s with.
If you don’t talk, you don’t know.
If you don’t ask, you don’t know.
If you don’t listen, you don’t know.
If you make a conscious effort not to assume, the results are amazing. You’ll find you make an ASS out of U and ME far less often.