I’ve heard it time and time again: “You never know what someone else is going through.” And it’s true. That person on the street that gave you a glare when you smiled at them? Perhaps they had a bad morning and are carrying that stress with them. The guy who honked at you when it took you less than a second to accelerate when the stoplight turned green? Maybe he was rushing to the hospital and not just a grump.

Regardless of the scenario, it’s a good reminder to stay calm and kind regardless of how others outwardly treat us.

But what about when those people are those close to us? What happens when we’re on the other side of things – when we’re the ones being treated negatively when others don’t know what we’re going through? Then, it gets a bit more complicated.

At the crux of the matter is assumptions. It’s the assumption that we know things which we don’t, or that others know things about us that are unfounded. Assumptions that because someone doesn’t talk to us that they don’t like us. Assumptions that because someone is always happy that they aren’t struggling. Assumptions can help us, but they can also falsely lead us to a conclusion that has no actual backing.

Worse, those false assumptions can cause us to negatively react in a situation that doesn’t require a negative reaction and ultimately lead us to hurt others because of it. Avoidable? Absolutely.

Let’s go back to my opening point – we often have no idea what someone is going through. Even if we are close to someone, even if we talk to them and think we know them, it’s rare that we know everything that’s going on within someone’s head. We can formulate hypotheses, theories of why someone acts a certain way, and tell ourselves that we get it. At the end of the day, we never do.

What do you do? Open your mind. Know that in order for others’ emotions to be valid doesn’t require your understanding. Open your heart to the fact that others will handle adversity and stress differently than you might.

Pause.
Reconsider your assumptions.
Listen.
Aim for understanding.
Be patient.