Wednesday, October 24, 2012



I recently saw a posting on Facebook of someone whom I admire admitting to losing the trust of a friend because he did not have all the facts.  First, kudos to him for taking accountability.  Secondly, it reminded me of just how insidious “assumption” can be.


Of course “Make No Assumptions” is the Third Agreement.  More importantly, as I tell my clients, “assumption is the mother of all screw-ups” – to paraphrase the old adage. 


One falls “victim” to assumption because at some level there is fear that what you “think you know” may actually be true and it is difficult for most to stand in the face of that and take accountability.  So, how does one escape the stranglehold of assumption?  Simple – communication.  And by communication, I mean CLEAR, CONSICE, EXACTING communication.


It is important that each party know EXACTLY what the other is thinking and trying to communicate.  For example, if one uses the word “confidential”, it is important to know what your definition of confidential is….do you mean just between the two of us, only your immediate circle, you might tell my friends but not my enemies or only that you won’t post it on social media.  If you tell me you’ll “have it to you by Tuesday”, does that mean you will be handing me a finished project on Tuesday or will I be getting a rough outline of what I might expect in the future.


The example I most often use is that of a ball game.  Suppose I call you up and invite you to play ball Saturday at 3pm at the Oak Street Park.  I have you repeat to me...Saturday...3pm…Oak Street Park...ball game... to be sure you understand what I am trying to communicate.  So it is Saturday at 3pm and I’m at Oak Street Park and you arrive suited up to play football.  However, I am suited up to play baseball.  I had “assumed” you know I meant baseball since that was my favorite sport.  You had “assumed” I had meant football since it was football season.


It is important to realize that even if you “think” you know all the facts, those “facts” as filtered by your preconceived prejudices and belief systems and may have nothing to do with the prejudices and beliefs of another, ergo one may be talking apples and the other oranges.


Language is simply a methodology of trying to communicate thoughts and mental pictures from one human to another.  Without the willingness to be responsible for both the sending and receiving of those thoughts and images miscommunication and assumption is the inevitable outcome.  And then we become prey to the most egregious of all relationship breakdowns….holding another responsible for an agreement they did not make.  (To be addressed later.)

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