This week I’ve been reflecting on the assumptions we make and how damaging they can be to our relationships, our ability to make progress and our confidence. Most of us have the tendency to make assumptions, but the problem is that we believe them to be true. How can we catch ourselves doing something that is usually unconscious?
Whether you’re just launching a new business, thinking about starting or in a growth phase, making assumptions can be costly. Assuming you know what your team or clients want or need can be a recipe for disaster. How do we become more aware of the assumptions we’re making?
“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” Isaac Asimov
What assumptions are you making?
An assumption is anything you accept as the truth without any evidence or proof. We all make many assumptions every day, and most of the time we don’t even realise we’re making them. They can be small assumptions like assuming there’ll be food at a party, or they can be much more significant like thinking that someone can’t be trusted.
Assumptions are often learned from what we see around us, how we were raised and what is considered ‘acceptable’. We grow up believing certain things to be true without necessarily questioning them. When we see things done in a certain way in our family or our culture, we are being ‘programmed’ to believe that this is the only way or certainly the ‘right’ way. If we’re discouraged from questioning it can have a hugely negative impact on our confidence and sense of self.
When we make assumptions we’re not communicating, we’re not listening and we’re not asking questions. Assumptions block creativity, lower productivity and can lower self-confidence. They can keep us from aiming higher, meeting our goals or following our intuition. Our beliefs are powerful, especially the ones we hold about ourselves. Negative beliefs are often perpetuated by negative assumptions – the so-called self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe you’re bad with money, your brain will search for evidence to confirm that belief. It will ignore anything it finds that contradicts your beliefs, until and unless you challenge them.
Unchecked or unchallenged assumptions can cost you your health, your relationships and your business. The only way to change your assumptions is to train your mind to question what you believe is real. We can become more conscious of our assumptions by paying attention to the words we use. Watch out for words like should, have to or must.
“I should be the last one to finish work each day.”
“She didn’t reply to my email, she must be upset about our conversation earlier.”
“I have to scale my business in order to be successful.”
Here are my Top 10 Tips on how to stop making assumptions:-
🌟 Acknowledge. The first step is simply to acknowledge that you are making assumptions every, single day. That you don’t perceive things the way they are but as you think they are. Notice what’s happening. Without judgement.
🌟 Recognise. Learn to spot the assumptions you’re making by challenging yourself and your thoughts. Ideally try to recognise them in the moment rather than waiting for the negativity that inevitably follows.
🌟 Question yourself. The simplest and most powerful way to stop yourself making assumptions is to ask questions. Ask yourself how you feel, how you’d like to feel and how you know something to be true.
🌟 Stop deciding. Instead of making your mind up that you know how the other person is feeling or what they’re thinking, ask questions. Substitute every statement with a question. Let there be other possibilities.
🌟 Mind the gap. It’s quite normal to fill in the gaps in our knowledge without realising we’re doing it. We also ignore the pieces that don’t fit the story we’re telling ourselves. And very soon two plus two equals five.
🌟 Embrace the fear. The reason we’re often afraid of asking questions is our brains don’t like uncertainty, so we make assumptions instead. Encourage your brain to be curious – there’s always more to the story….
🌟 Listen. Not to be right or to be able to justify what you think you already know. Listen to understand. Listen to be present for the other person. Be more interested in their story than in your own opinion of it.
🌟 Create space. Practice really listening to yourself. Ask yourself questions and really listen to the answers. Stop assuming you know yourself and instead enjoy developing true self-awareness and stronger intuition.
🌟 Practice mindfulness. Most assumptions are made super-fast and unconsciously. Being present in the moment allows you to notice your own thought process and catch the assumptions you’re making.
🌟 Breathe. Breathing deeply can help us connect to what we feel rather than what we think we know. By slowing down we can start to recognise the patterns we’re running and process the emotional toll they’re taking.
It’s completely unrealistic to expect yourself to know everything or be able to do everything. Please be kind to yourself and if you’d like to talk through the choices you’re facing or any blockers in your business, let me know.
Lisa Zevi – September 2021