You have probably heard what happens when we “assume”. Yes! We make an “ass” out of “u” and “me”. The problem is that our assumptions are a part of us. We’ve often had them since childhood, and sometimes we don’t even realize we are assuming. And not realizing this can create some unnecessary conflicts. Let’s see how that happens.
Have you ever spent the holidays at someone else’s home? You might notice that they don’t do thing the “right” way. And we might chuckle at ourselves when we realize that the “right” way is “right” only because it feels comfortable. That’s the way we grew up.
Here’s an example: The first time I spent Christmas at a friend’s home, I was shocked when she served ham at dinner. You are “supposed” to have a turkey at Christmas….But, not really. That’s just the way my family did it as I grew up. You can serve whatever you like. I bet some of you can relate to being newlywed, and going to your in-laws, and they don’t serve cornbread stuffing like your parents did. They serve bread stuffing. What?!
Both of these are great examples of us operating from our assumptions.
My favorite story to explain assumptions is very relevant now that the holidays are coming. As everyone knows, Santa Claus comes in a helicopter.
And you might be saying, “What?! Santa Claus comes in a sleigh! What are you talking about?”
It all depends on our assumptions. You see, my dad was a career military officer, and from the time I was two until I was five, he was Commanding Officer of an Air Force base. All the children on the base were eagerly awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus.
Santa couldn’t come in a sleigh, so my dad improvised. He gathered all the children on the base on one side of the hanger. On the other side of the hanger, the volunteer Santa Claus got into a helicopter. The helicopter flew up and over the hanger – and there was Santa Claus! We were all beyond thrilled. It wasn’t until years later that I realized Santa Claus had just come from the other side of the hanger.
So from the time I was two until I was five, “Santa Claus comes in a helicopter”. That was the absolute truth. I’d seen it happen.
Then, we were transferred stateside, and I started kindergarten – and my fellow classmates tried to convince me of something about a sleigh. But I knew there was one and only one way for Santa to arrive -- by helicopter. I was ‘right’ and got into lots of arguments trying to prove it. Just between us, it was three years before I got on board with that sleigh idea. But to this day, whenever I see Santa Claus portrayed in a helicopter, my heart says “YES!” That’s the way it was supposed to be.
Have you ever spent Christmas, or another holiday involving gifts, at someone else’s house? How do they open presents? All at once in a free for all? Each person at their own stack of gifts? One at a time while everyone watches? On Christmas Eve? First thing Christmas morning? After Christmas services?
Since there are so many ways to get from “presents under the tree” to “everybody has opened their gifts”, you can see that there are also so many ways to create disagreement. But that’s not what the holidays are supposed to be about.
As you can see, there are nearly a dozen ways to move from “presents under the tree” to “all the presents are opened”. But we can make ourselves and everyone else miserable if we insist on doing it our way, the one and only “right” way. But there truly isn’t just one way to open presents. Remember, our way only feels right because that’s what we have done in the past.
To clarify, this is how our assumptions can create a conflict:
- We were taught a particular way the presents should be opened.
- We believe that way is the correct way.
- We don’t allow room for any discussion.
- We don’t approach the other point of view with an open heart.
This can lead to a big fight during a time that should be filled with joy and appreciation at all the gifts we’re sharing.
So let’s challenge ourselves to observe everyone else’s tradition as a place to learn about our friends, family and being human. It may not always feel comfortable, but it’s a good thing to come at life with an open heart. We can learn new paths to reach our goals. And who knows, if you do, Santa just might arrive on your front lawn in a helicopter.
As a military brat, Terry’s early life was spent enjoying other countries and cultures. Add to this her forty years of teaching Communication Skills in both aerospace and education, and she has many ideas to share and stories to tell. Now happily retired and living in Northern California, she spends her time writing and enjoying life.