Assumption gumption


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







Patience is a virtue

Besides being a role model and inspiring Administrative Professionals all over the world, I do have another job – Chairperson of our Trustees Committee.  Yup for my sins I was voted in a second year in a row – supported by an amazing group of individuals who share the same vision and dream for our complex.

I know that dealing with municipalities and government in general is rather trying and requires tact and some serious patience.  It doesn’t help to get upset when you say one thing and they understand it in another way.  That is enough to drive one dilly.  My secretary usually ran with anything to do with Johannesburg Water or JRA.  He just couldn’t anymore and I watched how this poor man shook when speaking to these people and getting so frustrated.

So I stepped in and took over the reigns on that project.  I found that just by talking and trying to understand where the problems were in communication, what their understanding was as opposed to what we understood should happen, we managed to find a solution to the problem that has been going on for well over a month now.

After many emails and phone calls, we have finally finished with this project.  I just found that talking to them like people, not expecting anything much, but just listening to them, reasoning with them to a point where we both understood each other perfectly.  I got to the point where I wasn’t asking anymore, I stipulated by when I wanted the task done and dusted and I said that I would really appreciate it if they could get this done for me by when I asked for.

Today, they called me to show me what had been done and that all is finished.  Now most people would be sarcastic and say statements like “It’s about time” or something to that effect.  I turned around and said how happy I was that “we” managed to get this job done by today.  I told the Foreman how much I appreciated him getting this done quickly and asked him to thank his team for me.  This was also followed up by an email to thank all parties and departments involved and to mention the two people I dealt with personally for their understanding and speedy service.

That does a lot for one’s soul.  When I need something done again in future, I know that I will get priority because I had patience and took the time to make them feel like they were important and saved the day.

Sometimes, we just have to give a little more of ourselves even though we are busy and haven’t got time to sort out stuff.  We need to make the time, because it is important for all of us to work in harmony and to achieve the goal together.