Clear Questions to Ask to Reduce Assumptions

We will never really know the full picture of anything in life. Putting two and two together does not always equal 4.  There are a great deal of stories, thoughts, hidden actions and perceptions to every side of every story.  In order to fill in the missing pieces we use assumptions, thoughts we perceive to be true based on the information we have been fed.  Keep in mind, that information is based on another person’s perceptions and the information they want you to have.

Not everyone wants you to know the whole picture.  People will lie in order to portray a truth they want you to see.  Sometimes the lies are for your own good and other times they are to benefit the person painting the picture.

Filling in the blanks with your own pieces can be very detrimental.  The affects can be minor or major, depending on your assumption and the individual situation.

At one of my former jobs we have certain hours or operation. These hours are posted online and are available with a simple phone call.  It never fails though, that each time I worked I had to turn patrons away, some who have driven for a hour and arrive just before closing time.  I can just imagine how the conversation went once they left the building.  A simple call or website visit before they left could have saved a great deal of time and frustration.  Instead, they assumed the hours, causing an unnecessarily long drive with nothing to show for it.

Assuming in a Relationship
It is easy to assume.  In our society we want answers and we want them quickly.  Our impatience can cause us to choose to see what we want to see for many different reasons. 

I have seen simple assumptions have detrimental affects on relationships.  Take a look at finances.  How many of us have assumed a bill has been paid by someone else in the household only to find out later you now have a late charge or cancelled service because they had not paid it?  This could then cause blame from both involved and result in arguments.

We may choose to assume we can figure out what our partner or friend is thinking or why they did or said a certain something.  No matter how well you know someone, you will never know someones true intention unless they speak it.  There are many ways to say how one feels or thinks.  If you are offended by someones words, ask what they meant by what was said.  You may find that there was nothing to be offended by once the explanation is given.

A simple assumption such as, “I don’t think he/she loves me anymore,” can eventually end a relationship that could have been saved by working through the actual issue itself.  With assumptions we create more issues.  We act in accordance with our own thoughts.  If we think we are not loved, we in turn will hold our own love from the other person to avoid being hurt further.  I have seen people also say very hurtful things to their significant other because of this assumption.  Eventually the relationship ended.

I recall a time when several members of my family were at a seminar together at a very large convention center.  We split up at the end.  Some used the bathroom while others went to get the car.  We did not have a firm meeting place and ended up searching for each other literally for 4 hours!  The ones who had gone off to the bathroom did not have phones on them or the batteries had run out.  By the time we found each other there was an extreme tension and irritation with each other, leaving us stressed for quite some time.  My mother actually became physically sick from the stress.

In instances such as the ones just given, it can affect not only our relationship with the other person, but it can also affect our health.  These types of assumptions can lead to depression, anxiety, sleep deprivation, high blood pressure or stomach issues, all of which can lead to more serious conditions.

Assumptions on the Job
There are dangers of drawing your own false conclusions in your work environment as well.  Imagine assuming that your boss is out to get you.  What types of repercussions could this have?  It could cause you to be paranoid, make mistakes, decrease work effectiveness and lose respect from your co-workers.  I’ve seen it cause people to behave irrationally and even lose their jobs.

If you work with customers it is easy to assume that you know what the customer wants or needs without listening to the full story.  Most of the time interaction with a customer requires the employee to listen and ask questions to be sure the customer is understood.  Guessing what they need often results in the customer being unsatisfied with the end result and the level of customer service.  Good customers can be lost in the process.  If the outcome is extreme enough, your job could be lost as well.

Completing the Puzzle
There are many different situations in which one may use assumptions to piece together the rest of a puzzle in order to see the entire picture but using this method does not give a full picture. It is like forcing pieces where they do not belong to make an alternate picture.  With assumptions you will never see the beauty of the true picture.

How do we avoid assuming?  It is all around us.  It is a part of our nature.  Here are some suggestions:

Ask Questions
If you feel you are confused, missing pieces, not understanding what someone means, thinks or feels, ask questions. People will respect you for caring enough to understand them and the situation; your mind will be put to ease knowing the truth as you were meant to see it; future confrontations may be avoided; customers will remain loyal; you will maintain better health and relationships will be saved.

Here are some sample questions you can ask.  Tailor them to the situation.

“What did you mean by that?”
“How do you really feel”
“What are you thinking?”
“Why did you do that?”
“What are your intentions?”
“How can I help you?”
“Is there something I can do to help this situation?”
“Will you have time later, if so when?”
“Where should we meet if we are separated?”
“If (this situation) occurs, what would you like me to do?”

These are just a few questions that could save you from assumptions that lead to misunderstanding.  Try to think ahead for prevention and when the time comes, pay attention to your thoughts.  If you find yourself assuming, clarify.

Asking questions in any situation can save you from misunderstandings that could otherwise lead to less misunderstandings.

Be Patient
You can choose to not ask questions if you are uncomfortable or unsure of what to ask.  If you use this strategy, be sure to think the best of the situation in the meantime.  There are some situations where it will be necessary to wait, such as, hearing back after a job interview.  Stay positive.  Trust that pieces that are missing will fall into place in due time, allowing you to witness an even more beautiful picture than what you have in your mind.  Patience is a virtue.

This is not always the best strategy if you are impatient or not good at being mindful of your thoughts.  If you are not good at either of these things, you may find yourself assuming subconsciously as time goes on, in which case, clarification will be needed.

Staying Aware and Being Clear
When you are communicating with others, try to be mindful of how you are coming across.  Don’t leave room for others to make assumptions.  Be clear with your intentions. This is another area where asking questions can come in handy.  Ask questions to be sure you were understood if there are doubts or if your words could be taken to have multiple meanings.

The biggest key is to focus more on your thoughts.  Pay attention to what you’re thinking and evaluate it. Your thoughts are your personal truth, no one else’s.  Evaluate your thoughts and ask yourself if this is something you are projecting on someone or on a situation.  Is your thought valid or does it come from the part of you that feels the need to see the entire picture for what it is according to you.

When you fill in the blanks with assumptions, there is a high degree of probability that you will assume wrong.  You know what they say about assuming…?

If you have a significant other, it is important to share this with them.  If you are both on the same page and working together to understand each other it will strengthen the relationship.

I would love to discuss this further.  Please comment below:  What type of misunderstandings can you think of that could be caused by assuming?  What other ways can you think of to prevent assuming?  In what ways could not assuming better your quality of life, increase your peace and your happiness?


6 thoughts on “Clear Questions to Ask to Reduce Assumptions

  1. Great post! I'm a huge proponent of knowing the whole story before you judge. And assuming things has got me into a lot of trouble, especially miscommunicating with my husband. 🙂

  2. I agree that people are quick to make false assumptions. Communication is so important, usually very easy, yet so misused.

    We all need reminders to be good speakers, as well as listeners!

  3. Really enjoyed your post Missy. A lot of good points, suggestions and reminders! I find that when I assume I have not communicated clearly enough with the other person. Sometimes this is because I did not take the time and sometimes it is because I was afraid to know the answer. In either case I end up worse off for assuming!

  4. Erin,

    I fall into this same situation. I am getting better but it is definitely going to take more work. I've assume a lot when it comes to my teens and they call me on it often. I guess the fact that they recognize it is good.

    I hope you will hold onto this to refer back to later if you find yourself stuck on this in the future.

    Thank you for taking the time to read it and comment. I greatly appreciate it.


  5. Lorie,

    I think sometimes we think it will be easier if we do not ask. I recall a situation where I felt that way. I misunderstood but did not want to ask because I didn't want the person to know what I was thinking. I filled in the blanks and was very wrong.

    I am glad you related to this. Thank you for commenting. I appreciate it.


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