Assumicide attacked our home one weekend. Casualties were great.
In my pale celery green kitchen, my hands full scooping out eggs for brunch, my oldest man-child loomed in the doorway and kindly called me on an assumption. Ouch.
Just the day before, this same then-17-year-old and I had a similar conversation in the very same kitchen doorway.
(By the way, can we stop having conversations in doorways? In or out!)
Anyway, I made an observation about how his assumicide sent him into a cyclone of frustration. Dang, he’s a quick study.
Assumicide is the spiral of assumptions that self-destructs a relationship, either in the moment or over time.
Assumicide rolls out the red carpet for conflict. Sure, on the surface, the argument is about a missed deadline or not wanting to stop another rerun of The Office to pick up the yard.
Underneath are expectations that come from your personal culture and personality — your perspectives, feelings, values, thoughts, beliefs, interpretations, actions.
Put simply: your normal.
Your normal roots itself in unconscious stories you’ve lived with for so long, they’re just, well, normal.
If you’re unaware, assumicide becomes an invisibility cloak protecting those tatter old stories, letting them wreak havoc in your leadership (and a family gathering this week).
And the kicker: Everyone on your team and in your house has a different message lying to them. No wonder we have conflict!
And that is part of why conflicts bubble up. My culture competes with yours for dominance, rather than sharing a mission and goal. Reducing the frequency of this type of conflict, especially unnecessary conflict, is possible.
Here’s the BIG secret:
You cannot assume everyone sees, feels, thinks, believes, or interprets information as you do.
It’s so simple to read that sentence, and yet it’s just as easy to forget and slide into a cycle of assumicide.
Assumicide, always, always, always leads to unhelpful or incorrect information and interpretation. Blood boils, gossip follows, and soon a fire of conflict has spread before those eggs are on the plate.
Here’s how to pull yourself back from the brink of assumicide.
Here’s how to pull yourself back from the brink of assumicide:
Pause and Breathe:
(It’s not quite the bend and snap, but it’s effective.)
When you feel awkward, uncomfortable, angry, sad, ashamed, offended — any kind of intense difficult emotion — you frequently stop breathing. Your brain shuts down logical functions and goes into the lizard brain of fight, flight, freeze, or fawn. Your brain stem is really good at keeping you alive, not so much with the self-control, emotional regulation, or logical thought.
So, take a breath: a literal, fill-your-lungs-with-air-and-get-oxygen-to-your-brain-so-you-are-in-control-of-yourself breath. With the oxygen, the other lobes of your brain reactivate, returning to the executive functions it’s designed to accomplish.
Am I assuming this person thinks or sees this situation as I do?
Usually, your answer will be, “Why yes, self, you are.” This is a nice way to help you realize you are centering yourself as the normal. The act of asking yourself the question reminds you of the big idea: Everyone sees, feels, thinks, believes, or interprets information differently.
Learning more about your personal culture, growing in self-awareness, jump starts this process. You are less likely to compete with another person’s normal when you are aware of your own.
Ask Some More:
It’s time to ask the other person questions. Asking clarifying questions is, perhaps, the most effective tool against assumicide. You are allowing the other person to communicate their thoughts and perspective instead of only using yourself as the only data point. When you understand each other’s goals, you can work toward a solution instead of spiraling into conflict.
As a general guideline, ask three questions before sharing your opinion. It will slow the conversation and cultivate better understanding.
That weekend brunch over eggs and juice was a much more connected and pleasant experience because we worked through the assumicide.
Use these strategies to pull you back from the brink of assumicide and watch the connection, clarity, and community on your team increase.
Want some deep-dive support in understanding your personal culture and personality? I’m hosting a small group of leaders to dig into leadership mindset and personality style and actually learn how to apply it to improve your leadership. Find out details right here.