If we are in relationship with another person we are probably guilty of doing this; assuming we know what the other is thinking. We might even go further and tell ourselves that we even know what they will say. This is surprisingly common when two people know each other well.
There’s nothing wrong with thinking we know what the other person is thinking, but when we do this we prevent any real communication about the subject. Since we are already telling ourselves what he or she thinks and what they will probably say, we are limiting any possible dialogue. We might even start to react to the imagined scenario in our head which could lead to feelings of frustration or anger at the individual without ever having a conversation with them. We’ve had a conversation though, only it’s been inside our head and we’ve been communicating with ourselves all alone.
What’s missing is a chance to find out what our partner really thinks. Sometimes during a counseling session one person will say, “I know what she will say, it will be… (Fill in the blank).” I stop them right there and ask, “How do you know they will say that? Have you asked her?” Usually they tell me it’s because that’s what they have said in the past. And I reply, “Ask her right now.”
Almost every time the person who is asked will respond different than what was thought. This is usually eye opening for the couple. When we are in a relationship we think we know our partners as well as they know themselves, only we really don’t. We have no idea how the other person is perceiving, processing and thinking at that very moment. We can assume, based on past behavior that the answer might be a particular thing, but we have no real information about current thoughts.
We all have the capacity to ask. And guess what happens if we do? When we ask our partner without any preconceived notion we might get a novel response, one that could even surprise us. When couples enter into a phase of not assuming they know what the other person is thinking and what they will be saying, honest communication can develop.
Of course there might be some repair work for the couple to help bridge old hurt feelings left over from earlier times. This is possible too. But starting with not assuming is the first step. It might even begin with a confession that could sound like this, “I used to think if I bring up (name a subject) you will say (whatever you think they will say). But I realize that I am assuming I know. I don’t want to do that. I want to listen to what you think. I promise not to interrupt and just hear your thoughts.”
I assure you, and this is no assumption, your partner will love the way this feels and so will you.