People continually jump to assumptions before finding out what the real message is or whether their interpretation was justified.
A few years back a colleague came over to me and said that she thinks Anna (we will call her Anna for the sake of my story) is cross with her. I asked her why to which she replied “I greeted her and she didn’t even acknowledge I was there”. Now Anna (1) may not have heard her, (2) Anna may have been occupied with something else and didn’t hear her, (3) Anna may have been on the phone talking at the time, or (4) Anna was so deep in thought that she didn’t even register my colleague was greeting her.
Instead of my colleague going to find out if anything was wrong, she chose to assume Anna was cross with her. Silly, silly, silly! In this instance I think fear of what the answer may have been caused her to think the worst. The question is, did she do or say anything to Anna to warrant her silence? It could have been her conscience worrying her to assume the worst. Just saying.
We often misinterpret one another and add all kinds of meanings that were never intended in the first place. Why? If the person doesn’t want to talk to you, leave them. They may come around later. We eventually take ourselves down a path of distrust and disloyalty which is so unnecessary. Don’t worry – been there – got the Mickey Mouse badge and much more.
If a client calls the office and complains that a person on your team did not get back to them. What do you do? Do you go straight to the blame game – confront your colleague and ask why they didn’t call the client back? Or do you go to your colleague and genuinely ask what happened?
Your beliefs play a part in the way you react to a situation. Everything that happened on that day was impacted by your opinion of your colleague, the client and all the factors together.
Let us take a look at 3 ways we can try and avoid jumping to conclusions:
Assess your beliefs
It is important for you to just step back and take a seriously deep look at why you believe what you do about a person or situation. See where your assumptions are coming from – is it from a past experience? Your personal opinion? Your gut feeling? (My gut feeling always works for me – and I think all 3 scenarios I can identify with). It is not nice being on the receiving end of an assumption.
You need to know this because it is the only way you can get involved in situations authentically and grounded. By doing this, you are setting an example for others who do the same thing.
Ask questions first
Questioning is the opposite of assuming. It is being open and curious instead of passing judgement. When in doubt, always ask. Go into the situation without judging or with any pre-conceived ideas or expectations and really want to be informed. (This is not easy, but believe me, it helps).
This is the best way to get a deeper understanding of what the driving factors were that you did not know before. And when the table is turned – you will definitely appreciate it if you got the same treatment.
Look for multiple perspectives
It is important to get a couple, sometimes opposing, perceptions of reality in order to really understand what is going on.
By practicing this, you will gain more knowledge about the situation and people will respect you for wanting to learn what their view is from where they sit (that’s right, not from where you sit- take the focus off yourself. It is not always about you).
It is dangerous to assume things – this causes conflicts and upsets where, had the situation been resolved by two people sitting down and talking to each other and understanding and respecting each others opinions and views, this could have been avoided.
To ASSUME only makes an ASS out of U and ME.
Know of anywhere that you can practice not jumping to assumptions?
2016 Michele Thwaits