At some point in almost every person’s life, we have made false assumptions about another or blamed an innocent party for something they were not responsible for. Needless to say, both of these behaviors can lead to hurt feelings, people being offended and outraged or an angry defensive response from the targeted party. In some cases, it can prove extremely damaging to the relationship to the extent that an estrangement may occur or the offended party may seek retaliation of some sort.
Assumptions can be of a damaging, neutral or affirmative nature. Let’s examine each one:
There have been times when we have all assumed the worst about another person, particularly if it’s someone we don’t care for. You and your brother have never really gotten along with each other. He lent you his car over the weekend and a few days later discovered that the bumper was damaged. He assumes you are the one who is responsible since it was most recently in your possession. Without inquiring as to whether or not you have any knowledge of what happened, he automatically blames you. Regardless of the truth, he has declared you the guilty party and any investigation on his part is subsequently vacated. An incident such as this can be the catalyst that ends an already fragile brotherly bond.
A neutral assumption might look something like this: I presume that you will pick me up from work today as you have every day so far this week rather than ask you directly if you will be there as anticipated. While the assumption is neither favorable nor unfavorable, it can have a negative impact on the relationship should the other party fall to show up, not realizing that you were anticipating such. You feel disappointed or hurt by their actions; they are annoyed that you failed to ask them. While probably not serious enough to destroy the relationship, it can cause hard feelings that need to be addressed and resolved.
There are also times when we may make an affirmative assumption as well. Though less common, they often occur when someone we care about appears to be involved in an unsavory incident, for example. Imagine if someone witnesses a child doing drugs who bears a striking resemblance to your son and informs you of such. You become defensive and initially assume this person is only making these accusations because she dislikes your child, is a gossip, or wants to hurt your family. Negative assumption of the neighbor followed by an affirmative assumption of our child: you respond, “That can’t be possible. My son would never do drugs.” Wishing to believe the best about someone you care deeply about propels you to draw a positive conclusion without having any data to prove or disprove your theory. You look no further than your love for him and belief in your child’s innocence. You have formed an affirmative assumption.
As for accusations: when others accuse or blame us for something me may or may not have done, we feel as though we are under attack and our natural reaction to defend ourselves quickly goes into effect. Our anger escalates as we feel we are not being treated fairly. One serious accusation, regardless of its validity, can lead to a permanently damaged reputation and/or put the individual at serious risk. Consider accusations of sexual improprieties as an example. A person can lose their job without any proof of wrongdoing, can find themselves under investigation for a serious crime, and/or face the scorn and possible expulsion from their family. Accusations of any degree need to be given careful consideration before engaging them as they can have devastating consequences for the alleged offender.
In the case of a less serious personal interaction with another party where some matter has gone wrong and we are accused of being the sole party at fault, we naturally become agitated. Our perception is that the other party sees themselves as blameless, without having any accountability at all for what has transpired between them. Rarely when more than one person is involved does the fault lie with only one. Only when each party takes full ownership for their feelings, words, and behaviors can positive change occur. Personal responsibility is where our authentic power lies: our ability to choose (how we think, feel and behave).If my actions are problematic, I can choose to act in a different way, thereby effecting a different outcome. However, when I accuse and blame others I hold them fully accountable and in essence relinquish my power, thereby having no authority to effectively impact the situation.
When the tables are turned and we are the ones accusing or blaming others we fail to hold ourselves accountable on some level for the conditions around us: our financial struggles, our marital issues, joblessness or homelessness, poor health, lack of strong friendships, etc. We render ourselves powerless as we believe our circumstances are the result of some outside force rather than our own volition. Keep in mind, too, that powerlessness is one of the very foundations of anger.
Those who assume operate from a place of arrogance or indifference (to truth). When we make an assumption about an individual, in essence we are claiming to know without asking. “I possess superior intelligence, having the ability to assimilate information randomly. Therefore, I need not initiate in the inquiry process. I also have psychic abilities and can discern the motives behind your actions. I instinctively know that ‘why’ behind the ‘what’.” Assumers have no regard for truth. They only seek to support their own agenda; that is, they form a belief based on their feelings of those involved, collect all data to verify their claims, and avoid anything that may disprove their beliefs.
One would have little regard for a doctor who assumes to know what is ailing you. We would fully expect that they ask questions to uncover precisely what is causing you distress so that they may accurately diagnose and treat the condition. Anything less from them would be irresponsible and possible cause for legal action.
A police officer never assumes that the person holding the gun is the one who fired it, causing injury or death to a bystander. As obvious as it may appear, a responsible officer proceeds with an investigation, questioning anyone and everyone who may have any possible information that would lead to the prosecution of the rightful party.
Even in our judicial system, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. A prudent attorney will gather as much proof as possible to accurately locate and convict the person responsible for the crime and to protect the innocent party from a conviction.
Both assumptions and accusations are disrespectful to the other party as they show little interest in knowing the truth about them. Those who are truth seekers ask questions. They refrain from judging others or forming conclusions about a situation without first obtaining as much information about it or the individual as possible. They concern themselves with not having a scapegoat to hold accountable but rather for uncovering the facts so they can best address and resolve whatever the issue at hand is.
A fair minded person would never accuse or assume for fear of being grossly mistaken. One who is truly concerned about the well-being of others asks questions to be certain they know all of the facts before reaching a conclusion and deciding what steps to take next. It is the way in which each of us wants to be treated. As Ghandi so eloquently stated, “I must first be the change I want to see in others.” The Golden Rule instructs us to “Treat others as we wish to be treated.” The Bible commands us to “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
Therefore, be respectful of others as you would expect them to be of you. Refrain from assuming, accusing, and blaming. Ask questions instead. Be a seeker of truth. And only when you have obtained as much accurate information as possible, draw s just conclusion.
Q: “Those who seek the truth ask questions. Those who fear or are uninterested in the truth make assumptions or accusations. Always be a seeker of truth.”
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