The issue is not that we make assumptions. The issue is that a lot of times – they are wrong.
We often misinterpret one another. We add underlying meaning or subtext that was never intended. In other words, we often go 90 miles per hour to a deep, dark place of distrust and disloyalty.
Don’t feel guilty. We’ve all done it.
For example, imagine you are in your office and a client calls complaining that a person on your team never called them back. What do you do?
Do you go straight to the blame game? Confront your colleague and ask why he or she didn’t call the client? Or do you go to this individual and truly ask what happened?
The reality is that your perception of the situation, or any situation for that matter, is truly determined by your beliefs. In this case, your opinions about your colleague, that client, and all other factors in your world that day impact your view of the situation.
Your beliefs are always driving the show.
So how do you make sure they are not leading you astray?
Here are three tips to help you not jump straight to assumption:
1. Assess Your Beliefs.
It is important to step back and really dig into why you believe what you do about a person or situation. Reflect on where your assumptions are coming from. Are they coming from past experience? A personal opinion? A gut feeling?
You must know. It is the only way you can truly enter into situations authentically and grounded. The added benefit is that you are setting the example for others to do the same.
2. Ask Questions First.
Questioning is the antithesis of assuming. It is about being open and curious, rather than passing judgment. When in doubt about where a person is coming from, ask. Come into the situation with a clean slate and genuine desire to be informed.
It is the most respectful route that can create a deeper understanding of other driving factors you may not have known before. And when the table is turned, you will appreciate the same treatment.
3. Seek Multiple Perspectives.
As we discuss in our Team Model, no one owns the capital “T” truth about a situation. Everyone owns a piece of it. It is important to gather multiple, sometimes competing, perceptions of reality in order to truly understand what’s going on.
Not only will this practice make you more knowledgeable about the situation, people will respect your desire to truly learn what their view is from where they sit.
Where are you going to practice not making assumptions?