How the Assumptions We Make Influence our Reactions

Perception image

A little while back, my seven-year-old daughter and I were in the kitchen, while my husband was stomping around upstairs. I looked at her, and said, “Uh oh, daddy’s angry.” She looked back at me, and said, “No, daddy’s in a rush.”

Hmmm…

How the Assumptions We Make Influence our Reactions

Our thoughts about this situation, and the way that we perceived it were very different. I assumed that my husband was upset. Our daughter assumed that he was in a rush. This simple example highlights the extent to which our perception of a situation, and the thoughts that we have related to that perception, can influence our reactions to the situation. Simply put, assumptions influence reactions.

Based on my own patterns and interpretation of the situation, I felt irritated. Our daughter, who thought that her dad was in a rush, did not experience these same feelings of irritation. Our thoughts, or perceptions, our feelings, which then have an impact on our behaviour.

Have you ever been in a work meeting where people have extremely different reactions to the same information? One person might be livid, while another is excited. Since assumptions influence reactions, it is worth going to explore what the underlying assumptions, thoughts and feelings behind each individual’s reactions are.

People interpret situations differently based on their own life experiences and what is currently happening in their lives. How we interpret a situation can also be affected by our levels of stress and state of mind.

When we are convinced that we know why someone has said or done something, we are setting ourselves up for conflict and failure from the start. It’s really important to try to not get stuck in this type of “black and white” thinking.

Each interaction that we are a part of is seen through a lens that is particular only to us, based on our values, beliefs and life experiences. It’s as if we all see the world through a pair of sunglasses and every single person in the world wears a pair that is tinted just slightly differently than everyone else’s. If we aren’t even aware that we are wearing these glasses, we can’t choose to take them off.

How the Assumptions We Make Influence our Reactions

Deciding to take off our sunglasses to see the world differently requires us to challenge the automatic assumptions that we make. The first step is to observe when we make automatic assumptions. This might look like “my boss is lazy”, “my colleague doesn’t care”, “he’s upset that I haven’t finished this”, “the client isn’t engaged” when there is no actual data to back these presuppositions.

Next, challenge yourself to step out of this type of black-or-white thinking. What other explanations could be plausible? Become inquisitive and ask the other person questions to help you understand whether or not the assumption you have made is accurate.

Using more mindful communication to learn to reframe some of these automatic assumptions that we make opens the door to a more receptive discussion, ultimately increasing the job satisfaction of those on your team. You never know… try on your coworker’s pairs of sunglasses and see if it helps you to see things a bit differently.

If you liked this post, you might also like:
Setting Boundaries and Sticking to Them
Holding Space: The Value of True Listening
Why It’s Important to Clarify Nonverbal Communication

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette, M.Sc.(A) works with middle managers who want to communicate authentically so they can effectively lead their teams without losing themselves. As a former Speech-Language Pathologist, Lindsay applies her expertise in the neuroscience of communication and connection to help managers foster an environment of trust and respect in their teams, so that everyone can bring their best selves to work.

Lindsay’s approach has been profoundly influenced by her work with First Nations organizations, her experience as a parent to two neurodivergent children, and the premature loss of both of her parents. These experiences have taught Lindsay great lessons about the power of excellent people skills that extend well beyond her professional expertise.

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette

Lindsay Lapaquette, M.Sc.(A) works with middle managers who want to communicate authentically so they can effectively lead their teams without losing themselves. As a former Speech Language Pathologist, Lindsay applies her expertise in the neuroscience of communication and connection to help managers foster an environment of trust and respect in their teams, so that everyone can bring their best selves to work.

Lindsay’s approach has been profoundly influenced by her work with First Nations organizations, her experience as a parent to two children with pervasive mental health challenges, and the premature loss of both of her parents. These experiences have taught Lindsay great lessons about the power of excellent people skills that extend well beyond her professional expertise.

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Leadership communication skills to elevate team performance.

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