How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Assumptions: Why Being Right Is Wrong
Guest articles > Assumptions: Why Being Right Is Wrong
by: Sharon Drew Morgen
While researching my new book What? I discovered that when listening to others, we naturally assume we understand what’s meant and don’t question our assumption. Yet the filters our brain uses to hear what others mean to convey preclude accuracy, leading to faulty assumptions. Essentially, here’s what happens that makes accuracy so difficult (for more detail and research references read my free digital book What? Did you really say what I think I heard?):
A simple example of this just happened today. I was introduced as ‘Sharon Drew’ to a friend’s friend followed by this dialogue:
V: Hi Sharon.
SDM: Actually, my first name is Sharon Drew.
V: Oh. I don’t know anyone who calls themselves by their first name AND last name.
SDM: Neither do I.
V: But you just told me that’s how you refer to yourself!
Because a double first name was foreign to her, she put it in an accustomed category, deleting how she heard the introduction, and then wrongly assumed a typical a first name/last name configuration. She exacerbated the problem by then assuming she was right and I was wrong when I corrected her.
ASSUMPTIONS RESTRICT AUTHENTIC COMMUNICATION
We all do this. Using conventional listening practice, it’s pretty difficult to hear what is meant without making assumptions. As a result, we end up restricting, harming, or diminishing authentic communication, and proceed to self-righteously huff and puff about what we believe is ‘right’, potentially getting the context, the outcome, the description, or the communication, wrong. Or we assume the speaker meant something they didn’t mean at all. In business it gets costly when we wrongly assume a task we were never asked to perform.
I recently got a reproaching note from an annoyed colleague when, among several faulty assumptions he made that were far, far from my intent (and in one case making an assumption about my behavior that in fact was a direct response to something he did!), I didn’t behave according to his beliefs: I had asked if he wanted to ‘preview’ my new book before it came out, and he felt my subsequent behaviors insufficient given my request that he ‘review’ the book. When I pointed out his faulty assumption he got quite bumptious until I sent him back to the original email. It cost us both a possible business collaboration.
Assumptions cost us greatly, harming relationships, business success, and health:
Using normal listening habits we can’t avoid making assumptions. But we can supersede our brains by taking the Observer/Coach role and listening for the meta-messages – patterns, system, structure -- of what is said rather than the story line or content (which is what our brains use to acquire the assumptions).
I can develop Listening Skills programs to support kindness and the bottom line for your company. Read my free digital book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? on www.didihearyou.com where you’ll also find Learning Tools. Contact me to discuss coaching, training, and online assessments to help your folks monetize kindness. email@example.com
Contributor: Sharon Drew Morgen
Published here on: 01-Feb-15
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