Let’s face it. I’m not the only one out here making assumptions. As we’ve discussed over the past several weeks, they are so pervasive that they’re hard to avoid all the time. But there are two kinds of responses I see most often to the realization that you’ve fallen into the assumption trap. One response is to shrug it off, no big deal, and just move on. The other response is to reflect and adjust. And that’s the better response.
If you prefer the first response, I’m not sure why you’re still reading.
If you would like to try the second response but aren’t sure how to get started, stick with me. Here are three steps to get you started.
Assumptions seem to happen mostly when we’re not really being intentional. More on autopilot. Reflection, when done honestly and a little removed from the emotion of a situation, can help us see what’s going wrong. Once we reflect and find places where there might be some assumptions at work, move to the next step.
2. BE WILLING TO GO BACK
You might need to acknowledge that you have been assuming something that needs clarifying. You might realize you need to clarify an expectation and get some agreement from those involved. You may realize you’ve been projecting an assumption onto someone else about who they are, why they do what they do, or stereotyping. With that willingness to go back to that person and have a conversation, you are demonstrating humility, humanity, and an interest in authentic engagement. With your willingness firmly in place, you’re ready for the final step.
3. ASK QUESTIONS
Your reflection may have helped you know what questions to ask. But if it didn’t, that’s okay, too. We make the mistake of thinking we have to have all the answers in order to talk to someone else. How does that help you? (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.) Just being willing to approach the person where assumptions need to be cleared up and expressing a concern that there might be some at play is often enough to get the conversation started.
“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” –Henry Ford
Yep, what he said. Go forth, make mistakes. Reflect. Go back. Ask questions. Let me know how it goes. And reach out if you need some support in the process.