Yes, sure, I see you. Do you understand me? Yep, of course.
Do you know what I like? Do you know what excites me? Do you know what I’m good at? Do you know why I feel the way I do? Do you know what makes me behave that way? Do you know why I believe that to be true? Do you know how I work best? Do you know I’ve experienced that before? Do you know I’ve no clue where to start? Do you know that I don’t really understand your “joke”? Do you know…?
And if you think you know, do you truly understand?
And if you truly understand, do you think we can find a way to leverage this opportunity to be better?
Fact or fiction?
I was reminded again this week of how easy it is to make assumptions and, consciously or otherwise, assume them to be true. Real. Fact. A given. We tend to assume our worldview is the right way to look at things.
Are we kidding ourselves? Are we blinded by what we think we know? Are we fearful of what we don’t know? Are we brave enough to challenge our own world view? I challenge you to be brave and start getting curious about exploring the opportunities that come from understanding an alternative world view.
Help or hinderance?
I’ve been learning about cross-cultural coaching and it reminded me of three common themes that often come up in my coaching, both at individual and team level, because of our assumptions;
- the consequences of decisions and actions we take on the basis of assumptions made,
- the consequences of decisions and actions we don’t take on the basis of assumptions made,
- the natural human state to fear what we don’t know or are unfamiliar with, and so stick with what we think we know, and avoid or fight against what we don’t.
It’s not always obvious
Today we live and work in culturally rich and diverse communities and teams, yet many of us are still limited by our own world view. I’m not just talking about the more obvious cultural polarities that exist such as race or gender or nationality for example. Differences can be as inconspicuous as a conflicting core value in an assumed “common group” of people.
Testing our assumptions
So how can we test our assumptions?
- Firstly recognise when you’re making one! This can be tricky at first, particularly if it’s one we’ve lived with for many years. Ask a trusted peer or friend to help you start recognising this in real time.
- Ask yourself:
- What do I need to do to test this assumption?
- What evidence do I have to support this assertion?
- Where might I be able to find the truth and/or an alternative truth?
- Get curious and ask some simple questions:
- What do you think about…?
- How do you feel about…?
- Am I right to assume that…?
Feel the fear and do it anyway, as Susan Jeffers describes so beautifully in her book.
Leveraging similarities and differences
We must make time to understand each other, to test our assumptions, to be open to new possibilities in order to create, innovate and flourish, and build strong productive and rewarding relationships. The benefits are vast, from the basic foundations of enabling trust to accelerating business performance. I worked with a team on just this topic, the starting point being understanding and sharing individual strengths to increase overall team performance. You can read about it here. I hope you find it useful.
As always, if you need any help in understanding yourself and others better, please get in touch.