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Life is filled with assumptions. For example—you might have assumed I quit writing these newsletters. Not at all. Life has been, well, hectic. However, I do apologize for not getting to writing. I chose to write about an interpersonal topic that can cause conflict or perhaps let opportunity slip away.

In college, I had a friend who assumed a girl he met was God’s choice for him. Yet, Nick did not ask her out. He was playing it cool, assuming God would make it so. The young lady started dating a different guy. Nick said—”No problem. She is mine.” Months passed, and the girl he assumed was his got engaged. Again. Nick retorted—”No problem, it won’t last. She is meant to be mine.” You know where this is headed. She married her fiancé, and Nick lamented—”Guess she was not meant for me.” We ended up at the same graduate school in the same program. Still no girl. Bad assumption let opportunity slip away.

The sun rises in the morning. The ocean tides come and go like clockwork. The seasons roll around on schedule. These are reasonable assumptions based on evidence, observed over time and limited to the specific observations. The sun, moon, and seasons. The reliability of these assumptions cannot be ascribed to everything. Assumptions applied to people can become stereotypes or cause observations or comments to be given the wrong meaning. So what’s the point you say?

Assumptions can be dangerous, like when I was in Siberia. A school teacher there asked why we in the U.S. wanted to kill them. All the nukes and such. I was able to counter with what we had been taught. In the end, we agreed that the people did not hate each other, but politicians postured for supremacy at the detriment of their people and often their economy.

Politicians make assumptions and look foolish and biased. Like a president saying an officer doing his job “acted stupidly.” Said president thought all was cool after a photo op and a couple of brewski’s. Such assumptions are inexcusable, and moreover, can cause lasting consequences.

An officer in Norfolk that was on the same shift was called to a domestic. We had all been on far too many. You know the drill. Wife or neighbor calls about a husband or boyfriend being a problem. Once on the scene, the wife just wanted someone to tell him to stop. If an arrest is necessary, the wife sides with the abusive husband. So John get’s to the typical domestic – only this time, when he knocked on the door of what he assumed was typical, the husband shot his wife and then through the door hitting John puncturing his lung and lodging against his heart. Thank God John recovered.

Assumptions. We make them every day. When it comes to people, assumptions can cause a marriage to fail, a child to feel unloved, an employee unappreciated. Assumptions can make friends into enemies. We attribute the words or actions of others and assume our interpretation is what was their intention. A husband who seems distant to his family because of stress at work might be perceived as lack of interest or just not caring. A dad’s comment in frustration might crush a child, with dad responding harshly because of other issues in his life. The child assumes they are not important rather than understand the circumstance.

In law enforcement, some assumptions are legitimate. Experience provides some pretty sound foundation for legitimately assuming an outcome or causation – but not all the time. In the rush to get the job done, one must still do diligence in investigations. Those rare occasions where a snap judgment is wrong can cause an innocent person to suffer. DNA reversals illustrate it well. Going to work with marital baggage stirring the pot can cause assumptions to go awry.

For those we care about – friends, family, fellow officers – assumptions are critical. Giving the benefit of the doubt, pausing before responding to hear the whole sentence, and considering the context is important. It is also important to not assume things will always be the same. Like the guy whose wife told the pastor “he never says he loves me.” To which the husband said – I don’t get it. I told her when we were married and nothing changed.”

So confirm what you assume by good conversation, interaction, and proactive affirmation in a relationship. Likewise, for those with whom you serve, live, and care for, ask if you question a comment. Get clarification.

Be certain what you thought was intended is correct and not poor communication or guided by context you do not see. Equally important, have a personal support group where you can unwind or call on when personal things get tight.

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