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Over and over again I see it. People making major assumptions about others.

Thinking for them rather than listening to them. Finishing sentences. Ready with their next response before the other person has finished. Applying their swift, and often incorrect, thought processes onto what’s going on around them.

Four examples which spring to mind:

(1) The person on a course who took one look at me and said “well you’re Mr Married with Two Kids aren’t you?” Not even close! They aspire also to be a coach by the way.

(2) The next bod: recently tweeting about how they hate people who sit in the first seats on the Tube pretending to be asleep so they don’t have to give it up to someone who needs it more. It’s a brilliant example of people assuming. “You aren’t pregnant (visibly in any case), you haven’t got crutches, you aren’t as old as I think you need to be to have that seat, you aren’t carrying a child….” A whole belief system attached to how they react.

It gets worse. Someone else responded that they pass wind in someone’s face if they think they aren’t worthy of the seat. Nice. This person – innocently sitting there – may well be a strapping lad. They may not look to you as if they need the seat. But what if they have just had their first round of radiotherapy? What if they are living beyond cancer but with the exhaustion that can accompany you for life? What if they are having the worst day of their life for some reason and have never needed that seat more?

(3) Next example: a coaching client (neither current nor recent by the way) whose interference was that she found it hard to stop making sweeping assumptions about those around her in the workplace. “I noticed x – it must mean y”. Oh? May I suggest you might enquire and find out what it means? Or else might you risk assuming and taking the wrong course of action?

(4) The person who asked me if it was OK to assume that all men react to a cancer diagnosis in one way and all women in another”. So – if I understand you correctly – all 3 billion men react in the same way. And it’s a different way to all 3 billion women who all react as one to the news. Really? And you are in a leadership role?

My prescription: listen. Listen again. Keep on listening. Listen to understand. Think. Challenge yourself – are you making 2 + 2 = 20? Work harder. Much harder. Be curious. There’s a really interesting and complex world around you – but if you just narrow things down to fit in with your world-view then it’s that bit less interesting and you’re going to struggle to navigate it adeptly.

Aren’t you?

(By the way you can find out more about what I do right here: http://www.chelsham.co/index.html )