In The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, Miguel Ruiz states, ‘If others tell us something we make assumptions, and if they don’t tell us something we make assumptions to fulfil our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.’
Every day we make assumptions. We make assumptions about ourselves, our partners, our managers and co-workers. But how often are they true?
At the heart of it, making an assumption means believing things are a certain way with little or no proof. At work this can cause miscommunication, lost productivity and unnecessary stress.
—A quick flashback, if I may. Picture the swirly visual effects in your mind.—
Last week I was in a coaching session. My client explained he had sent some work to a few people—including a senior leader—for review and feedback. The good news: The leader sent the requested feedback. The bad news (at least to my client): the email was sent back to his peer, and not him.
This worried my client greatly. He began asking questions like, does the senior leader not respect my work? Does he not trust my judgement? Doubt crept in, negative self-talk he had difficulty shutting down. He assumed the worst.
But what was the truth?
When we explored the level of relationship he had with this GM compared to the level of relationship the GM had with his peer, things became clear. This leader was not questioning anyone’s ability, he merely responded to the person he worked with most often and associated with this type of work. Period.
—Okay, the flashback is over. More swirly stuff and you’re back in the present.—
Ask yourself: How many hours have you wasted guessing or assuming what others are thinking? How often have you adjusted your actions as a result?
The challenge: This week assume everyone you work with has positive intentions and no hidden agenda. When you feel you may have a misunderstanding, just ask. Clarify. Be curious and caring, and you may be surprised at what you find.
And pay attention to what you are able to accomplish; you will be amazed.