I was in Cincinnati for the annual Sherpa Coaching Conference as part of my re-certification. The group was large enough and the schedule full enough that it was impossible to connect with everyone. I only knew a few people.
After the conference, I grabbed a bite to eat at the airport with a coaching colleague from Dallas. As we finished our meal, another executive coach entered the restaurant. I had observed her over the past few days, but an assumption kept me from reaching out to her. It wasn’t until that “last-chance-to-connect” conversation that I discovered a great person.
Her story was interesting. She was an emergency room doctor transitioning from medicine to executive coaching.
In reflecting on the incident, I felt the effect of making assumptions.
How do assumptions get us in trouble?
People make assumptions when they think they know something and accept it as true without verifying it. Assumptions show up when we take something for granted without proof.
The primary characteristic of an assumption is the lack of verification or proof.
What is the effect of making an assumption?
- Deception: you believe something to be true that is not.
- Bondage: you lose the opportunity to make a decision based on truth.
On the other hand, how does judgment help us make wise decisions?
Judgment involves forming an opinion after consideration, observation, or the pursuit of truth. This leadership ability to form a valid opinion and make sound decisions is significantly different than making assumptions.
We know that judgment can refer to a decision handed down by a court of law or a judge. In this case, a decision is reached after extensive examination of the facts.
What is the effect of exercising good judgment?
- Discernment: you form a correct opinion and make better decisions.
- Freedom: you act and live intentionally, less reactive.
What does it take to exercise judgment over making assumptions?
You must create space. By that I mean you must make time to pursue the truth of The Story. Making assumptions is an unproductive behavior driven by first impressions, jumping to conclusions, and making assumptions. Exercising good judgment is a success-oriented behavior driven by self-awareness, reflection, open-mindedness and the desire to influence.
To escape the assumption trap, ask open-ended questions. This requires you to challenge your assumptions by asking:
- Why do I believe this?
- How do I know this to be true?
- How have I arrived at this conclusion?
- How are my filters impacting my ability to see this person? Situation?
Remember: the business of life is people. Much of the workplace conflict and lost opportunities are the result of making assumptions and jumping to conclusions.
Creating Space to Think
Nearly a year later, I reached out to my colleague (the medical doctor, turned executive coach) The longer our conversation went, the more we connected and discovered common ground in our approach to coaching. Another meaningful human connection.
When inclined to jump to conclusions slow down. Check your thinking. Ask open-ended questions. The reward is worth the effort.
If it had not been for my “second chance,” I would have lost the opportunity to meet an energetic professional. When I created space to connect, I also received affirmation and encouragement on my presentation at the conference. To think, I almost lost that gift because of a limiting behavior — making an assumption.
- What are some of the assumptions you make about others?
- What does it cost you?
- Think of an assumption you made about another person. How might your perception have changed had you asked questions?
Here’s to your pursuit of truth,