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 that assumptions. The truth is, our brains are not set up to enable us to understand what Others tell us: the filters, the habituated neural pathways, the biases our brain uses to translate sounds into words into meaning preclude accuracy, leading to faulty assumptions. We actually only accurately hear some unknowable percentage of what is being said. Here’s what happens that makes accuracy so difficult:
A simple example of this just happened today when I was introduced to someone:
Joe: Hey V. I'd like you to meet my friend Sharon Drew.
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, her brain used a habituated pathway for 'name', deleting two instances of correction (i.e. how Joe introduced us and my correction). She exacerbated the problem by then assuming - as per her habituated knowledge about names - I offered first and last name, again ignoring my name. She went on to further assume she was right and I was wrong when I corrected her. Curiosity wasn't an option as her normalized thinking patterns about 'names' offered her no possibility of error. She believed what her brain told her and acted on the assumption that she was 'right'.
ASSUMPTIONS RESTRICT AUTHENTIC COMMUNICATION
We all do this. Using conventional listening practice, using our normalized subjectivity that we've finely honed during our lifetimes, it’s pretty difficult to accurately hear what's meant without making assumptions; our brains are just set up to routinize and habituate most of what we do and hear - it makes the flow of our daily activities and relationships easy. But there is a downside: we end up restricting, harming, or diminishing authentic communication, and proceed to self-righteously huff and puff when we believe we've heard accurately. After all, our brain tells us what it wants us to hear, doesn't tell us what it left out or altered, 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 and then act on flawed information. In business it gets costly when, for example, implementations don't get done accurately, or people are deemed 'prospects' and put into the sales pipeline when it could be discovered on the first call that they were never prospects at all.
Assumptions cost us greatly, harming relationships, business success, and health:
Using normal listening habits we can’t avoid making assumptions. The belief that sharing, pushing, presenting, offering 'good' (rational, necessary, tested) information will cause behavior change has proven faulty time and time again, across industries. But it's possible to avoid the pitfalls of assumptions and hear what's being meant - by taking the Observer/Coach role and listening for the metamessages rather than the story line or content (which is what our brains use to subjectively assume).
It's the difference between being in front of a tree and noticing veins on the leaves (listening for content) while failing to notice a fire 2 acres away, vs being on a nearby mountaintop (listening for metamessage) noticing a fire in the forest, but not seeing the veins on the leaves. Both content and metamessage listening are necessary, of course, but at different times in a communication.
I contend we listen first in a dissociative way (Dissociative Listening - listening for the metamessage, what's meant underneath the words) when new information, a new relationship, collaborative dialogues, or fine data gathering is necessary. Doing so makes it possible to listen in a part of the brain that doesn't have the habituated neural pathways and filters that our normal listening involves. In other words, we won't need to make assumptions.
In my book What? there are chapters devoted to explaining how we make the assumptions we make, and how to resolve the problem. It's an important skill set that we all could use. I don't know about you, but I personally get so annoyed with myself when I make an assumption that proves wrong, and I lose the possibility of what might have been.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the visionary behind Buying Facilitation® - a change management model that includes learning how to Listen for Systems, formulating Facilitative Questions, and understanding the steps of systemic change. For those of you wishing to learn more, take a look at the program syllabus. Please visit www.dirtylittlesecrets.com and read the two free chapters. Consider reading it with the companion ebook Buying Facilitation®
Sharon Drew is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling With Integrity, as well as 6 other books on helping buyers buy. She is also the author of the Amazon bestseller What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew keynotes, trains and coaches sales teams to help them unlock situations that are stalled, and teaches teams how to present and prospect by facilitating the complete buying decision process. She delivers keynotes at annual sales conferences globally. Sharon Drew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 512 771 1117
Contributor: Sharon Drew Morgen
Published here on: 29-Jul-18
And the big