Assumptions and the stories we tell ourselves

Apr 19 / Jen Tyson
Often, assumptions can be at the core of most conflict and angst, we can assume too much or too little about a person, or situation, we make up our own meaning, narrative or stories.

Usually this happens when we only have small snippets of information, or clues, rather than a more complete understanding. In the absence of information, humans will make up what they need to fill the gaps, not even intentionally.
Just because that is what we do when bits of the 'puzzle' are missing.
We have this need to try and solve the 'puzzle'. 

There are a couple of ways we can solve 'puzzles' like these, one is by making assumptions, this is by far the more default position many take. 

There is another way, usually requiring more discomfort and taking a bit longer to work through, asking good questions to get a broader understanding of a situation.
So, instead of making assumptions I have taken to applying a new habit, asking questions.
It just cuts through so much potential time wasted on making the wrong assumptions. I have written some of the questions I use often to gain better understanding about situations I encounter, below.

I have found a useful assumption to make is:

Everyone is doing the best they can, with the information, time and resources they have available right now. Including myself.
Once you assume that about someone or a situation, it gives you the freedom to look at anything from a new perspective, from that place of new perspective you can ask a KEY question or two, to move to a place of better understanding.

Some questions you can ask for greater clarity:
  • “May I ask what you meant when you said……?”
  • “The story I am telling myself about …………………….. is………… can I just check in if this is correct?”
  • “I would love to know what you are thinking or how you are feeling about that?”
  • “Is there something else you would like me to know about this situation that may help me get a better understanding of it?”
  • “Is there something I can do to help you out with that?”
  • “What do you need right now from me or anyone else?”
  • “So I can get this in the right priority, what is your expected deadline for this?”
  • “Are you happy with……?”
  • “Is there something I can improve about……?”
Ask these questions with an intention to seek understanding not to be right or pass judgement. By understanding a person or situation better,  it doesn’t mean you agree or take sides, what it does is open the doors for good communication and this can lead to a higher level of trust, less pain and better productivity.

Here is to less assumptions, more understanding

PS: If you would like to learn more about yourself, what makes you tick, how you can become a more powerful communicator in the world, check out our Unleash Your Superpowers products here

Jen Tyson
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