In order to connect accurately with people, we must filter our assumptions. Everything gets filtered through our backgrounds, personalities, and preferences. We try to make things fit in with what we already know. It’s how God made us, and it’s how we make sense of the world.
We encounter something new, and our brains compare it to what exists already. It’s like one of those childhood toys that has lots of shapes to be fit through matching holes. The circle will only fit the circle hole. The star will only fit the star hole. But we certainly try to fit it in all the holes until we figure out the right fit. We do the same with information. It’s called assimilation.
When something doesn’t fit, we have to make a new connection. It’s called accommodation. We have to accommodate for the new information we have. We need a new category or relationship within our mind.
When we’re not willing to put forth the effort accommodation requires, we’ll assimilate instead, limiting or ignoring the newness and the reality of the incoming information.
We make assumptions, and those assumptions can be good as they help us make sense of the world around us. However, when we become lackadaisical in our assumptions, unwilling to examine and accept the truthfulness of the situation, we respond incompletely and incorrectly. Sometimes, the only one hurt by our response is our self. We don’t fully experience and grow from the new information. We don’t create new connections, which can later impact incoming information that would have benefited from the previously created path.
Many times, we aren’t the only one hurt by our response. We impact others, because many of our interactions and experiences involve others. When we settle for assimilation information instead of considering and possibly accommodating information, we impact relationships. What can this look like in every day life?
- As you’re talking with someone, she jumps on what she thought was your last word. You weren’t done, and what you wanted to share was important to you. She reminds you of your sibling who you felt never listened to you and didn’t respect you. You assume this person feels the same way about you and you emotionally retreat, unwilling to continue to engage in a relationship that won’t go anywhere. In reality, she might just be excited about what you said. She feels a connection and wants to continue talking.
- You catch of glimpse of someone sitting across the table at a business meeting. She looks mad. You assume she doesn’t like the idea you shared a few minutes ago. You know you need her buy-in to make this work, so you start scrambling for a way to tweak your plans to meet her expectations. In reality, she might love the idea and is thinking through the ways she can move mountains to make it work. Her intense expression is about focus, not disapproval.
- When your friend cancels for the third time in a row, you feel abandoned and ignored. You remember being hurt in friendships in the past. You wonder why you ever exposed yourself to the same potential hurt again. You wish the friend would just be honest and tell you she doesn’t want to hang out anymore instead of acting as if she cares. In reality, your friend really does care. She has a lot going on in her life, but she doesn’t want to burden you with the details. She has difficulty sharing. She’s avoiding you but it’s not because of you; it’s because of herself. She needs you more than ever.
Our assumptions come from what we’ve experienced before. Someone reminds us of our…mom, dad, boss, friend, co-worker, brother, sister, grandparent, neighbor, and so on…either positively and negatively, and we make a connection. If we test the similarity, and it proves to be true, we can let the connection help us respond in the future. But if we don’t test the similarity, and it proves to be a false assumption, and we’re unwilling to process the different information, we’ll miss out on the connection God wants us to make.
God teaches us through relationships. He teaches us about him, ourselves, and others. God is truth, and everything he does is based in truth. If we’re not seeking truth, even when it’s difficult, we’re not truly seeking God’s will. We don’t get to decide what’s true and what’s not based on our preferences and experiences. God does.
Don’t assume you know everything. Don’t assume you even know what you think you know. Filter it all through God’s perspective. He’ll reveal what you need to see and how you need to respond.
Make them ready for your service through your truth; your teaching is truth. (John 17:17)