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Three Relationship Killers: Perception, Assumption, and Expectation


We all process our relationships through our own perceptions.  However, when we relate to someone only through our own perceptions, it is one-dimensional.  It will usually give us a warped view of reality.  There is a saying that “perception is reality”.  While that is true, it may not be “actuality”.  There is a big difference between our perception and the truth.  External influence and internal dialogue shape perception.  Truth is not influenced—it just is.  When we relate only through our own reality, we are not seeing the whole picture, and that becomes a relationship killer.  Relationships need a 360-degree view to flourish.  People outside the relationship who have nothing to lose or gain by bringing truth to the conversation can often help.  This is the power of coaching!


We all have assumptions of the people with whom we are in relationship.  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard “they always” or “they never”, I would be a millionaire.  Many times, we assume things about others without ever asking them what is in their heart.  We are quick to make judgments based on those assumptions.  That is a relationship killer.  Our assumptions are often based on our own experiences and perceptions.  Rightly or wrongly, this actually says more about you than about the one judged.  When we assume, we are making a judgment—good or bad.  My daughter once observed, “When you are offended you have already judged.”  Many of our offences actually come from assumption and not from actual events.  Someone may say something to you and because you assume you know what he or she meant, you get offended and sever the relationship.  Instead, we should seek understanding, ask questions, or get advice from someone outside the relationship to see the full picture.


We all put expectations on people with whom we are in relationship.  The problem is we usually don’t communicate those expectations.  Based on our perception and assumptions, we will often put an unachievable expectation on someone.  Every relationship must have negotiation within it to be healthy; that is the place to teach each other what we expect.  However, when those expectations are not based in reality and agreement, they become relationship killers.  Because our expectations often come from a place of hurt or broken trust, it becomes impossible for the other person to achieve them.  If even we don’t know what we want, how can we expect the other person to know?  To bring clarity, I recommend communication and agreement.  This gives you both an opportunity to share your hearts and helps achieve the expectation.

Every relationship, regardless of intimacy level, whether at work or home suffers from these three killers!  Because we are often not even aware we are doing this, it takes conscience effort to overcome the tendency.

Here are three ways to defeat the three relationship killers:

  1. Invite someone you trust and discuss your tendencies in these three areas with that person.  Ask him or her to hold you accountable by pointing out when they see you doing it, privately of course.  Meet regularly to go over or vent about your relationships.
  2. Correct your mistakes by talking to the people you have offended in these ways. Ask for forgiveness and invite them to share their hearts so you can understand them better.  This is not easy, but it is very powerful.
  3. Dig deeper into your heart to understand why you do this.  Perhaps seek counsel to dig up some roots to allow healing to happen in your heart.  When you deal with the deeper issues in your heart, these three killers lose their power in your life.

Let me finish with this thought.  We don’t have to look to far to see the pain that often comes from broken relationships; we’ve all experienced it.  Rather then hiding or running away, work at it.  It is far less painful to work on these issues than it is to walk away.  We all carry the baggage from the last relationship to the next one, so let’s make sure it is good luggage.

Until next time, remember Relationship Matters!