Usually when we’re second guessing, it’s because we’re not aware of all the facts – and the negative chatter in our heads instantly assumes the worst. For example, a work colleague may have told you that she liked what you were wearing. To most people, this would be taken as a compliment, but you might think they were being sarcastic and making fun of you. Not only can this cause an unnecessary argument with the person if you were to verbalise your suspicion, but if you didn’t express your thoughts, negative feelings such as hurt or anger could start to affect your mental wellbeing over time.
One of the main problems with thinking negative thoughts is that we don’t question them. When these kinds of thoughts go unresolved, it can affect our mood and lead to issues such as anxiety and stress. Often when we choose not to confront our thoughts, it’s because we subconsciously know that we could be jumping to the wrong conclusions. We don’t want to appear paranoid or unreasonable, so we keep the thoughts to ourselves.
In order to stop second guessing people and making assumptions, we need to rewire how we think.
Imagine the following scenario… (not uncommon prior to social distancing)
You invite friends and family over for a dinner party. After the meal, who offers to help you clear everything away? You’ll likely find that each guest acts differently. Someone might offer to help you; someone might disappear to the bathroom; and someone else might remain seated and carry on chatting.
Everyone has a different response because everyone is different and has their own individual personalities. Just because people don’t act or react in the same way that you would, it doesn’t mean that they are intentionally wanting to hurt or upset you.
Perhaps your friend who rushed off to the bathroom had been wanting to go for some time, but didn’t want to appear rude so waited until everyone had finished their meal to leave the table. Perhaps your friend who continued chatting didn’t want to walk off during a conversation and felt uncomfortable because they wanted to help you.
What is catastrophising?Remember that we aren’t mind readers and often when we assume the worst it’s down to unrealistic thinking. This is called catastrophising, often caused by anxiety, and it is a destructive way of thinking where we assume the worst. This Guardian article features a three-step plan by a psychologist on how to deal with anxiety and reduce catastrophising.
However, there are also several other ways you can stop second guessing.
How to stop second guessing people
- Recognise your emotions and try to understand what has caused you to feel a certain way.
- Practise mindfulness by observing your thoughts. Try to be aware of your thoughts as they enter your head and accept that they are not always speaking the truth. Question your thought process and ask yourself if they are based on fact, if not, let them go.
- Reason with your initial thoughts and consider an alternative, more rational explanation. It’s important to give people the benefit of the doubt.
- Remember that most people have good intentions and aren’t out to upset you.
- If you have questioned your emotions and thoughts and still feel that they are right, speak to the person involved in a calm and non-judgemental way. Ask what they meant by their comments without accusing them of something you’re not 100% sure about. Communication is key and by holding back on angry or emotional accusations, it will hopefully put your mind at rest.