Many of us have a default way of operating, on a “guilty until proven innocent” mindset. And it’s not our fault. Our culture attributes all sorts of ill intentions to inappropriate situations, like when we call a 2-year old terrible because they have tantrums. This happens even though a tantrum is not coming from ill-intent, it’s simply childhood development. Or when we think our kids are doing things on person, deliberately pushing our buttons. However…
TRUTH: When people are giving us a hard time, it’s because they are having a hard time.
The slippery slope here is that we tend to apply this aforementioned mindset with adults too – our partners in particular. It’s as though our dearly beloveds are trying to sabotage, they don’t really care about our needs, or they’re just plain lazy. Attributing all sorts of ill-intent, and making these assumptions about our partners, can be the undoing of marriages and partnerships. There’s a name for this very common cognitive fallacy, and its called the Jumping to Conclusions Bias:
Jumping to conclusions is a psychological term referring to a communication obstacle where one judges or decides something without having all the facts.
In my recent eBook, I shared with you all the 10 Zen Secrets of Persuasion. I have used and use the laws in this book, to improve the communication in my own marriage drastically. Another thing that is absolutely crucial, is the Law of Going Second.
The Law of Going Second states that when we have some mental story going on about our partner, we let them share their story first. More often than not, when I make an assumption about my partner I get it wrong! I often forget to extend him the same benefit of the doubt that I would like, or that I’m trying to extend to my children. I always try to see their “negative” behavior not as such, but as an expression of unmet needs. Just as we can assign those behaviors as ill intended by our children, we also do this with our partners thinking they are doing something to us. It’s truly just because of our frame of mind.
Just this morning I was getting so annoyed with my partner because he was staying in bed while I was running around getting the children ready, cleaning up breakfast, packing up lunches, etc. And I was beginning to wonder, “Where is he? Why isn’t he getting up?!” My first assumption wasn’t very kind. I was thinking he was being lazy, and that he thinks his sleep is more important than mine. When my partner emerged I was able to hold my tongue in order to apply this Law of Going Second, whilst giving him a quizzical look. He let me know he was trying to get out of bed to help out, but he wasn’t feeling well and was in a lot of pain. I was saved by this Law, gave him the benefit of the doubt, and totally changed my interpretation of the situation.
By going second, I saved us from conflict and bad vibes between is. By assuming “innocent until guilty,” we’re able to extend the benefit of the doubt to everyone around us, and most importantly to assume that everyone is doing the best they can do with what they have. If you feel that you must share your assumption, remember this prompt from the incredibly Brené Brown who suggests this eloquent way of phrasing it:
“The story I’m telling myself is that…”
It really helps us to own that we’re telling ourselves stories all the time, and we’re inviting our partners to set the record straight – to set us straight. So ask your partner to set you straight when you’ve made wrong assumptions, but whenever possible try to go second.
I’d love to hear YOUR feedback on my 10 Zen Secrets of Persuasion eBook. Leave a review or YOUR biggest takeaway below.