Create Better Relationships By Assuming Good Intent
Earlier this week I was watching an episode of Fantasy Island (reboot with Roselyn Sanchez) and one of the stories was about a couple who had been married for 34 years. They went to the island to figure out if they should spend their golden years together or divorce. In the initial meeting with Elena (Roselyn Sanchez) and Ruby (Kiara Barnes) to discuss why they came to the island and the experience they wanted to have, Ruby said something that resonated with me. She talked about a recent article that said there are 6 people in any marriage – who you think you are, who the other person thinks you are, and who you really are. Through the magic of the island, the couple on the island were able to meet each other anew, fall in love again, and truly see each other. After the experience, they were able to talk and they figured out that they were not communicating very well, mostly because they were assuming things about how their spouse felt. And their assumptions were completely wrong!
Something tells me the writers of that particular story are married, have been married before or have experience with long-term romantic relationships. I have been there and I’m thinking you probably have been there, too. Assuming people are thinking or feeling a certain way happens more often than I’d like to admit. And acting or responding based on that assumption? Oh yes. In fact, this applies to other relationships, too. If you’re anything like me, you’ve made these types of assumptions in the context of a relative, a friend, a co-worker … and maybe even the driver on the road next to you. It always surprises me when someone on the road here in L.A. allows me to merge into their lane because my assumption – which I must point out is evidence-based because I’ve been driving here for 23 years! – is that I will have to be aggressive to change lanes. If I were speaking to you in person, I’m betting you would nod and maybe even say “me too” even if you’re not an L.A. driver.
As I thought more about what Ruby said on that episode and pondered the squabbles I’ve had over the years with my husband, I wondered how many times it was based on an incorrect assumption. We make assumptions all the time. It’s a shortcut. And so, of course, that happens when we’re dealing with our spouses. Several years ago I heard about an effective way to handle this. If you’re in the middle of a discussion with someone you’re in conflict with, it can be helpful to say: “The story I’m telling myself about this is [insert your assumption here]. Is that right?” And then you can find out if you have it wrong. I’ve tried this with my husband and with other family members and co-workers, too. It works! I wish I could say I remember to employ it every time we’re having a discussion, but that’s another blog post…
The type of communication that happens in healthy marriages and positive relationships doesn’t have to happen only after a visit to a beautiful “Fantasy Island.” It’s attainable for all of us – no magic, no tricks. Yes, it takes more time and you have to be self-aware. The first step is noticing when you’re making a negative assumption. The next step is to do something about it – stop that assumption in its tracks. The third step is to assume the opposite. Assume good intent instead. Every time I’ve assumed good intent instead of something bad or negative, it has served me well. I have found that it contributes to the harmony of my marriage and other relationships. Hopefully assuming good intent is something you want to do in service of the relationship and in honor of the love and respect between you. And that way you can have 2 people in the relationship – you are who you truly are and the other person is who they truly are. And you both see each other as such.
Fantasy Island is a fun watch. Just like the original version, there’s usually some humor, some romance, and a moral to the story. I recommend it!