Should be approached with caution!
Assumptions are a great asset to humans and also one of our biggest liabilities! We all make assumptions, it means we?re able to quickly process information and navigate through our lives with ease. Assumptions help us to make sense of the world and enables us to work faster and become more efficient. Let me share the first time I remember making an assumption that was completely wrong.
I was in Year 7 so I was still feeling quite uncomfortable with my new surroundings, but, my older sister (who was in Year 10) was there and I knew she?d look after me if I needed her. I would occasionally bump into her in the school yard and she?d give me a friendly greeting ? I would feel a little important in front of my classmates who would be whispering ?who was that?? to which I?d proudly reply ?she?s my sister?. Then one day I passed her as I was walking through the corridors and she looked right through me, no acknowledgement that I was there, not even the ?hi? I called was answered. She walked straight past me without a single word. I was immediately embarrassed, then pissed off, I thought ?b#$@h, too good to say hi to your sister?.
I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out what I?d done to make her ignore me like that, I was immediately angry but as time went on I felt sad, hurt and confused. I had this ongoing dialogue in my head about the possible scenarios. Maybe she was embarrassed by me, maybe she?d found out that I?d worn her favourite top without her permission, maybe someone told her that I didn?t like her?as the day went on the stories in my mind grew and so did the emotions.
When we got off the school bus that afternoon I turned to her and said ?what?s up you?re a@#!?? (as was customary conversation at the time). She turned to me with a look of confusion and I began my rant ?do you think you?re too good to say hello do you??, still looking at me with a WTF expression I unloaded on how she walked past me and ignored me and all the things I?d taken that to mean and when I finally stopped she said ?sorry Shell, I didn?t even see you, I must have been thinking about the assignment I stayed up until midnight finishing?.
What!!! I?d beaten myself up for the best part of the day for nothing, nada, zilch. While I was busy stewing over her intentions, she was completely oblivious to what had happened. Then I was angry because she hadn?t even realised she?d upset me?the conversation with myself continued and I eventually found something else to focus on and forgot about it?but you get my point!
The thing is, I see this happening in the workplace all the time. Here are some of the assumptions I see leaders making:
So, how do you know what they?re thinking? Well, unless you outright ask them, you won?t. I?m not saying don?t assume, because it?s a necessary part of our lives. What I?m saying is be open to other possibilities and go with the assumption that they?re well intended and whatever their behaviour, it comes from a good place!
Eight years after my sister ignored me in the school corridor she did the same thing in the call centre we worked at ?this time my assumptions were a little more accommodating, ?she?s busy or deep in thought, I won?t bother her?. She?s a fabulous leader and someone I look up to and respect?I?m glad I didn?t stick to my initial assumption!
Shelley Flett is a passionate leader with a keen focus on creating dynamic team environments through adaptable leadership. She is a leadership coach, trainer, facilitator, mentor and speaker who ignites vision and purpose in those she works with.
If you?d like to know more about how she can work with you, and your team, drop her an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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