Are Your Assumptions Making An Ass Out Of You And Me?

How to lead a team or family effectively? 


 “We make all sorts of assumptions

because we don’t have the courage to ask questions.”

― Miguel Ruiz

I love this clever reminder that ‘Assume’ is made up of ‘ASS’ ‘U’ ‘ME’


Assuming you know what someone else thinks, or feels, or knows, can be dangerous.

This applies to everyone and to presume adds another layer of arrogance over an ill-judged assumption already made.

The dictionary definition of ‘to assume’ is ‘to accept as true without proof’.

When did you last make assumptions about your nearest and dearest?

Or perhaps those you work with daily?

Or of a stranger walking past?

Being mindful of your assumptions can drastically improve how you lead.

Whether you are leading in business or in the home.

Allowing others to make assumptions of you can be just as dangerous, as it can mean that your silence leaves them assuming their own interpretative spin on your situation is accurate.

Speaking up about what is actually happening or airing what you would like to have happen can be difficult but it is vital to clear communications and good leadership/parenting.

Many of my past relationships both professional and personal broke down because one of us was making assumptions and the other was not brave enough to correct the other.

All too often a parent is making assumptions about their teen, partners about each other and managers of their teams. This is because our starting point in life is to evaluate others based on our own personal life experience I refer to this as my map of the world.  How I see and hear things.

Family example:

A parent might assume that a child’s messy bedroom is a sign of depression, lack of self pride or self worth because that is what they think when they let their own housework fall behind. This is from the map of an adult who has learned the effect of a messy room on her or his well being and effectiveness.

Whereas for the teen it could be that it is the only space in their life they can completely control and so they do something completely different to what is expected.

A teen often can’t choose what to eat or when to eat, you do that. They often can’t choose when to sleep or when to wake, society and routine chooses that. So how they display their dirty clothes might be the ‘only’ thing they can choose freely. Therefore a messy bedroom could be a demonstration of independence and of course you might be right and it is a sign of a lack of self pride/self worth.

Business example:

Similarly a boss might assume that a messy desk is the sign of disorganised and chaotic person based on the theory they cannot possibly work in a mess.

The truth is that you will only know if you ask open and non judgemental questions that allow the person to answer freely.

So what do you ask questions about to be the most effective leader/parent you can be?

The important factor here is to focus on the outcome you want. All too often we ask questions about the messy room or messy desk when in fact that is simply the what we assume to be the problem.

Whereas if you focus your communications on what you want in these examples:


  • The parent wants a happy confident child who takes pride in themselves and their environment
  • The boss wants an organised member of team that gets work done on time


With this in mind if you ask questions that focus their attention in sharing with you what is happening when:


  • Happy confident, taking pride in themselves and their environment
  • Organised and getting work done on time


You will both gain greater awareness and understanding of what that is like for them in their map of the world. As clean language facilitators we are asking questions about what you would like to have happen where ever possible as this is often more efficient way to find solutions or we develop a greater understanding of what is happening when it is works.

Focusing on what is happening when happy and what is happening when work done on time can be a more efficient and positive way to use the time.

Sometimes you or the individual needs to understand the problem better in order to understand the solution wanted.

In these examples you might ask questions of what you ‘perceive’ to be the problem remembering all the time that the messy bedroom or desk in fact may only be a problem to you.

Questions you might ask is when a bedroom is messy what happens to your happiness?

Or when a messy desk what happens to organised and work done on time?

Remembering all the time it is your outcome for them to be happy/organised and at this stage those outcomes might not be important to them. This too could be an assumption you are making that they want to be happy and organised.

I would love to have your thoughts about this article so please do leave your comments below.

How to lead a team






Sheryl Andrews Communication Coach

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