Leslie’s Leadership Lesson: Don’t Assume, Ask
Intuitive Life Coach Leslie Juvin-Acker Discusses The Dangers of Assumptions
I have noticed that people can spend more time worrying about what someone else is thinking rather than trying to meet an objective to accomplish a goal. In fact, I find many of my clients get so hung up on what others may think that they become immobilized from making the next step.
I had a client, Nicole*, who needed to change her work schedule for a few months to meet some personal goals. She asked a colleague essential to the plan, Julie*, if she would help out by changing her schedule. Julie initially agreed, but after a month of little cooperation Nicole felt as if Julie was lying and had no interest in helping at all. She also felt a strange straining, distant feeling from Julie.
I asked Nicole what she had done about the vagueness that stood between her and Julie. She said she was too scared to confront Julie because of the perceptions of Julie she had created in her mind. I told Nicole that there were things she didn’t know about Julie’s situation and the only way to know for sure was to ask her why she had failed to live up to her promise to help. If anything, I advised, Nicole would get a concrete understanding from Julie so that she could move on without her help to find another solution.
After some convincing, Nicole finally confronted Julie. After gently, but directly asking Julie why she wasn’t meeting her commitment to help, Julie revealed that Nicole had not specified the exact kind of help she needed with the schedule and that she was scared that she couldn’t meet her own personal obligations in order to make the scheduling changes that would help Julie. Inspired by the opportunity to create a solution, Nicole grabbed a calendar and picked out the days she needed and offered to exchange days when her schedule could go back to normal. Within 30 minutes, the problem had been resolved. Nicole’s old feelings and negative judgments of Julie had dissolved in light of the truth.
After the experience, Nicole reported that she was so focused on the confrontation and her preconceived notions about Julie, that she wasted weeks by not acting. Nicole felt silly when she admitted that all she had to do was ask and clearly define her needs, but realized how important clarifying communication is.
When we’re caught up in our assumptions, we can lose time, resources, and opportunities to meet our objectives. Overcoming our assumptions is a big part of bridging the gap between the unknown and the concrete reality with which we can deal.
Have you worried about what someone else was thinking, to later find out your assumptions were wrong? Have you wasted time when all you could have done was ask?
*Names have been changed to protect identity.
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