Did you know there is a book titled WTF? I have a copy! It’s 201 Weird True Facts by Harry Bright and Jakob Anser. Fascinating stuff! Wait…did you think I was going to talk about something else when you read the title?
WTF stands for all kinds of things: World Trade Fair, Wire Transfer Form, even Welcome to Florida! But when we see the abbreviation, most of us tend to think of either Who, What, Where, or Why the F***.
When we engage with others, we admit that making assumptions, jumping to conclusions, or even making judgements are poor behavioral traits we should avoid. Yet, we do it all the time! Why?
I am guilty of this. I desire others to speak their minds clearly when talking with me. Usually, it’s because I want them to get to their point quickly, without beating around the bush. However, in possible conflict situations, some people get nervous and are afraid to speak their minds. They try to be tactful in their approach and tend to be indirect in their communication.
Indirectness bothers me. I often presume when a person is going on and on about something, they are trying to lie to me. That isn’t true at all. People generally get more tactful in their approach when they are trying not to hurt your feelings.
Despite knowing this, I can still get frustrated sometimes and respond more inappropriately than if I ignored my presumption. This illustration is just one example of how making assumptions or judgements can backfire.
CONTEXT IS CRITICAL
Even in the abbreviation, WTF, without context, you don’t know if the W is for Who, What, Where, or Why. But I’m sure if you are anything like me, one of those formed in your mind immediately.
Context is critical when jumping to conclusions. Sometimes, that conclusion IS beneficial. But not when it comes to assuming or judging another’s intent, not even when it comes to judging our own behavior!
Within each of us, we have internal intentions and external behaviors. Sometimes, our outward behaviors don’t match our inner intentions. We can’t always assume they do. These are “blind spots” in our behavior. And they can create conflict with others.
If this is true for us, then it is valid for others also. So, when we observe behavior in others, we cannot presume to know the intent behind it. Their external behavior might not meet their internal intention. It is essential to learn to drop our assumptions, judgements, and conclusions.
TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Instead, we must learn to probe deeper with compassionate questioning to gain more understanding. I like to use the term compassionate questioning for a reason. Previously, I encouraged others, when I coached them, to “ask questions” instead of making assumptions. However, when they asked their questions, they still presumed to know the answer. When we do that, it shows outwardly in our behavior. It causes us to come across as arrogant and condescending.
I realized I needed to be more precise in my own communication with those I was coaching. Compassionate questioning drops the assumptions entirely and instead focuses on a genuine desire to know the individual we are talking to with a heart of learning.
If you want to stop assuming, making judgements, or jumping to conclusions, learn compassionate questioning. Feel free to email me for tips on this topic.