Assumptions lead to unmet expectations.
Those assumptions can be happening on both sides of the conversation.
Or rather, lack thereof.
Let me give you an example from my home front.
The general rule in our house is one person cooks and the other person does the dishes. Last night, I made dinner. After we ate, I put away the leftovers and returned to my office to finish up some work. I assumed Dani, my wife, would take care of the dishes per usual. Instead, she headed to her office, too, to do homework for the class she’s taking.
We went back to the kitchen a while later and I noticed there were still dishes in the sink. I immediately got mad and silently fumed about (in other words, I assumed) how I would have to do them in the morning. Dani silently went about closing up for the night, unaware of my ire. Nothing was said.
We got ready for bed, me silently fuming the whole time, assuming that she was expecting I would take care of the dishes in the morning.
(I work from home most of the time, so I often assume that home responsibilities will fall more heavily with me. Unpacking that will have to be for another post.)
Finally, I said something.
“Hey, so I noticed you didn’t do the dishes. Were you wanting me to take care of those in the morning?” I tried to keep the irritation out of my voice. I’m sure I failed.
She looked at me with surprise. “No, not at all. I know you’re working. I figured I would just take care of them tomorrow night. I had a deadline for school tonight.”
See what I did there?
I asked a question.
I clarified my expectation.
Granted, it was only after fuming and assuming about it for a good long while. But I did eventually clarify things. And was able to go to bed at peace.
Yes, it really is that simple in most situations. Testing assumptions, clarifying our understanding, asking questions, or whatever else you want to call it really does work. If you find that you feel resistant to doing any of those things, ask yourself why.
The more we clarify things, the less disappointed (or mad) we’ll be.