When in Doubt – Ask!

By , January 30, 2011 11:10 pm

“What a week! Meeting with John went really well thanks, I had nothing to be worried about! We got really clear about our expectations of each other which went really well, so I feel like I’m making a good start to the year!”

Jenny, A Private Coaching Client (Email received after our coaching session)

Jenny had recently been acting as team leader while a new replacement was being recruited. She’d enjoyed the experience but was happy to step down now a replacement had been found.

The new manager, John,  had previously been Jenny’s colleague in the same team. He had a reputation of being quite dominant and assertive and had a totally different approach to Jenny. She was nervous about him becoming her boss and how she could influence this change of roles in their working relationship.

John had also not been in the office much since his promotion so the team continued to ask Jenny for help and support in his absence – There was no one else to ask!  Her own workload was suffering as she was now covering two roles! Jenny was worried because she wasn’t sure how to approach John about this.  He’d not spoken to her since his appointment. She had not received any clarity or direction for her transition out of her team leader role.

Jenny was frightened to approach John because she was scared that he’d think she was negative and become aggressive. She was worried about his reaction, after all he was quite dominant!

So she procrastinated…

We often make assumptions and then make decisions based upon those assumptions because we believe the thoughts in our heads to be true.

Jenny was afraid of what she didn’t know.

  • She wasn’t sure of what John was thinking about her since their relationship had changed: he was now her boss.
  • She assumed that he would get angry when she brought up the challenge of still having to manage the team because he was never there. They had no one else to go to.

So she avoided arranging a meeting with him. As time progressed she felt more frustrated and John’s absent behaviour reinforced her assumptions.

Here’s some thoughts about assumptions:

1) Assumption often comes from fear – because we’re not sure about something and we’re frightened to ask, we assume that we know what the other person is thinking, feeling or going to do.Assumptions are often fear-based.

2) Assumptions can cause people to collude and reinforce their assumptions. We can base our assumptions on other people’s opinions and believe them to be true.

3) Assumptions mean that we don’t have to check it out – Because we’ve created some facts for ourselve instead.

4) We have our own in-built self-fulfilling prophecy of doom and will always imagine the worst when we don’t know what is true.

Jenny was unsure of the boundaries for her new sideways move in the department. She’d stepped down from being the manager but no one had given her any direction.

Successful people don’t waste time on assumption. They get clear by checking things out…

Here’s how to handle assumptions:

1. Get Clear – What do you know already? What do you need to know? You can’t make decisions if you don’t have the real facts. Get clear on your understanding of the situation so far. What is important to you? What do you want to say? Set an intention for the meeting. Don’t try and guess what the other person is thinking or feeling – You’re not them, so YOU really DON’T know!

2. Talk with the other person – Arrange to check it out with the other person. Ask them for clarity. Get answers for your questions. Facts are much better than assumptions because you are more informed and can make better decisions.

3. Understanding is everything – Just by having an open conversation you can create an understanding, manage expectations, set boundaries and ask for what you really want. We are all human beings and have equal value, worth and dignity. No one is less or more important. We are all the same. Sometimes we can read another person’s behaviour wrongly. Creating understanding between you enables both parties to explore what is real and enables you to base your actions on the truth. You get clear up front so there is no conflict later on.

4. Build a relationship – Checking out your assumptions improves communication and strengthens the relationship between those involved. It makes life easier because you’re clear, aligned and by working together you can get better results. You are proactive in the relationship NOT reactive. You check things out rather than waiting for your assumptions to become reality.

What are YOU assuming just now?

One Response to “When in Doubt – Ask!”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lisa Alcorn, Elaine Bailey. Elaine Bailey said: When in Doubt – Ask! http://bit.ly/gP5rgD This week's blog post is ALL about Assumptions #UYB #UplevelLive […]

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