The Irony of Assumption

Finding the courage to ask rather than assume

You are not that smart.

Actually, I believe most of us are smarter than we give ourselves credit for*. However there’s one area where we are not that smart–knowing what others are thinking and seeking. Yet many of us assume all the time.

One of the main areas where I assume this is when I am in a hurry to finish a conversation so the work can begin.  I realized this writing the blog post on Making Time for Communication. I also saw that when I gloss over communication it’s because I believe that my knowing the answer(s) without asking is a quick path to moving ahead.

I do this especially when I am trying to help others, or get work done together. How ironic is that?

I think I started this practice as work so I would be perceived as knowledgable and accomplished. Then it spilled over into my personal life too.

Here are a few practices I find useful as I let go of this habit:

  • Reminding myself that the other person truly wants a meaningful conversation too (most of the time), so it’s really okay with everyone to make the time.
  • Ask questions rather than make statements. Make the questions open ended. Here’s an example, ask “When would you like this report submitted?” in place of “Is this report due on Monday?”
  • Having the courage to go back to a topic or admit that I rushed things. When I first did this I just assumed I would have to overcome the other person’s objections to continuing the discussion–but that has yet to happen.
  • Getting past my fear that an open ended question might lead to a request I am not prepared or want to deliver.

What do you think? Is my sense of irony overblown here? What practices do you use to leave assumption behind and ensure a full discussion?

My best wishes for an amazing day, and week! See you next Wednesday.



*More on this topic in the future!

Make time for this important activity

Especially when you are super busy

Make time for communication.

I heard this as part of a larger conversation last week at a SAMI meeting, and it really hit home so I have been pondering it since.

Engaging with one another thoughtfully and fully is one of the most satisfying parts of life. It’s also a key to avoiding conflicts–one of the most frustrating, time wasting, damaging parts of life. How many times in our lives have we said, “Oh, I thought you meant this. You really meant that!” How much time, energy, and perhaps angst could have been avoided if we took time to communicate fully, openly and honestly.

Here are a few ideas for enhancing our practice of making time for communication:

  • Work to find the highest level question. Rather than “Would you like cake or ice cream?”, ask “Would you like dessert?”  In place of “How many minutes should this presentation be?”, ask “What are the key learning points? If you could wave a magic wand, what would be the very best outcome?”
  • Let go of fears around asking for clarification. As many of us are bustling around, creating a lovely, large meal tomorrow on Thanksgiving, perhaps ask, “When you say the turkey will be ready at 3, do you mean carved and on the table, or coming out the oven?”, or “When you say you want to watch a little football, is that 1 hour, or 6?”
  • Take time to really hear your friends and family, especially those who are different than you, or those who push your buttons. Sometimes when I listen to the person underneath the words, I discover them on another level that helps me to connect in a new way, and let go of the things that bother me. Maybe even say, “Hello Magnificent!”

As I write this, I realize that I started out thinking this practice is about respecting others by hearing them more deeply, but I have transitioned to understanding that it’s also about respecting myself enough to want a meaningful conversation, knowing that I am worthy of making the time. I feel more relaxed about the crowded kitchen tomorrow!

Like most things I write about here, you all know this stuff and my role is to hopefully provide a gentle reminder. I’d love to hear if this resonates with you and what you do differently in the coming days.

My best wishes for an amazing day, and Thanksgiving holiday. May you be blessed with wonderful family and friends, and life enhancing conversations. See you next Wednesday!


Finding good in others

Last week as I wrote about looking in the mirror and exclaiming this lovely, true sentiment to ourselves, I realized it’s a great way to see the magnificence in others–especially those folks who make us cranky.

A long time ago I was venting to a friend about a family member who I found hard to be around.  He was raised with every advantage and education, yet was demanding, opinionated, and closed-minded. Even a mildly different opinion was not tolerated in conversation.

I had spent a couple of evenings around the dinner table listening to him during a family visit and was now venting to my friend.  She replied, “Lisa, it sounds like he wants your approval.”  WHAT??!!

How could this person who had so much advantage in his life, had lived more than me in many ways, want my good opinion?  But, after pondering a bit I knew she was right. She advised me to just find one thing I liked about him. Then tell him.

What a challenge. But I did it, and was glad.  Evenings around the dinner table were still boring, but I was not nearly as cranky with him, or cranky that I was stuck in the situation.

And, I realized that everyone has something to like. When each of us looks to find something to like in everyone else, we are more joyful.  It doesn’t really matter if it affects the other person.

Writing last Wednesday I realized that one of the best ways to find something to like about another person is to say “Hello Magnificent!” to them.  I practiced it this over the last week and found it really useful, and fun. At this point I am still saying it to myself, but soon I will say it out loud.  Won’t that be fun!

It’s a great reminder that we humans have so much more in common than the differences that we let separate us. Magnificence is all around us. It just takes a moment to recognize it.

My best wishes for an amazing day, and week. See you next Wednesday!

Over the Hump is back!

My life lesson from a schefflera

With just a little room to grow, miracles happen.

A couple of weeks ago I transplanted a schefflera plant into a larger pot and added some additional soil. Voila! Sprouting new sprouts where there had been none for over a year. The previous lack of growth was a bit of a surprise as scheffleras are quite hardy. I had fertilized it and put it near a window with little result.

So when I noticed roots coming out of the top of the pot, I realized it needed more. With a larger pot, more soil, and 30 minutes of digging in the dirt my schefflera had a new home.

Now it has new shoots on every branch. Plus those new shoots are growing really quickly.

I realized this is a great metaphor for life!  A little additional space plus fertile soil can lead to rapid new growth.

To take advantage of this idea we have to recognize that it is we who create the pot that is too small--with our routines, practices and judgements.  Things like “I won’t work on that project after dinner because I am too tired so it won’t be quality work” or “I should not apply for that position because I don’t have an MBA” or “I’ll never be able to finish a marathon or century bike ride.”

We are usually our harshest critic. Sure we may have learned the words from others, but we are the ones who continue to believe them…up until now!

Here are a few tips for creating a bigger pot and more fertile soil for ourselves:

  • Let go of negative self talk–even the most simple things. Take a deep breath and blow it out, away from  yourself. Replace it with encouraging words such as “I am strong and capable. My friends, family and colleagues support whatever I truly want to achieve.”
  • When we make a mistake, or something goes wrong, recognize that it’s all part of human life–everyone goofs now and again, and stuff happens. We are not a bad person, it’s just that we had a whacky moment. Take action to fix or mitigate the results of the mistake or wackiness–then move on. Next!
  • Look in the mirror every morning and say out loud, “Hello magnificent!” (just like each and every other living being)

You may have noticed that Over the Hump has been missing for a while, but it’s back!  It took me a year to get past my small pot and realize how much I enjoy communicating with you all. Heartfelt thanks to those who encouraged me to start again.

My best wishes for an amazing day, and week. See you next Wednesday!