GET REAL

Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Assumptions

I walked up to a counter at a pharmacy, this morning, after processing digital photos. I had one order of 19 photos, which I had distributed between two envelopes. The service representative spoke courteously. “That’s just 19, right?” he said.

For whatever reason—probably because I was in a hurry and didn’t take the time to listen—I understood him to mean that I owed 19 dollars. “No,” I said, “it’s only $5.50.”

He replied, “Yes, but I see 19 here.”

Again, I thought he was quoting the price. I was getting slightly annoyed when I realized the miscommunication. The man was simply confirming that I had processed 19 photos, which, of course, was correct. I apologized, he was gracious, and we moved on.

This brief experience reminds me of how we make assumptions every day, many times a day. Assumptions are made frequently in lieu of actually probing for accurate information or communicating directly with another person. This is particularly true in the workplace, where, for whatever reason, we’re conditioned to be careful about being too honest. Go figure.

I facilitated a series of workshops years ago where we asked coworkers to pair up and share one assumption one had of the other based on behaviors at work. I was amazed, as were the participants, how often people misunderstood a behavior based on their own assumptions.

So how do we avoid making inaccurate assumptions that may negatively affect our relationships at work? Be honest, respectful, and have a conversation!

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