It happens all the time to all of us. We think we know what someone else is communicating to us – in fact we are sure of it – only to learn that what we were thinking was actually not at all what the other person intended to communicate.
As an executive leadership coach, I see these disconnects all the time. And these communication disconnects almost always revolve around inaccurate assumptions which lead to unrealistic expectations on both sides.
So here’s a simple tip that can save you hours of wasted work, worry and even damaged relationships. Before you speak, slow down and ask yourself:
- “What assumption am I making here?”
Be honest. It’s a simple question but it encourages you to step back and double-check if you have all the information you need and is this information really accurate or are you just “assuming” you know.
And quite naturally, mutual expectations flow out of these assumptions. Think of the last time you worked on a project team that there was a question about who is going to do what. That’s a classic situation of everyone making assumptions and therefore having expectations of each other based on those assumptions.
As a leader, you can minimize these kinds of disconnects and possible conflict by simply double-checking your assumptions. I also like to remind myself that for the most part people really want to do a good job – and they think they are doing what has been asked. So when there is a communication problem it often is because I made assumptions that weren’t accurate. A simple mistake that’s actually quite easy to avoid. Try it!