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Assumptions – How They Support or Sabotage Our Goals


The Man And The Hammer

A man wanted to hang a new picture in his house. He found a nail but he could not find a hammer. He was looking everywhere but with no success. Then, he remembered that he saw his neighbor using a hammer the other day and he decided to go to him in order to borrow the hammer. No big deal. On his way, the man thought about the day before when he saw his neighbor arriving from work. He could not remember that his neighbor greeted him. In fact, it seemed like he was not even looking at him. His neighbor ignored him. No, not only ignoring but also arrogantly looking away. Probably, the neighbor thought that the man is a bit stupid and did not want to have anything to do with him anymore. The man remembered that even before his neighbor had not looked at him. He has to hate him. Eventually, the man arrived at the neighbor’s door and already rang the bell. The neighbor opened the door and the man screamed, “You know what you idiot, you can keep your stupid hammer.” and went home again.

We Do It Too

Funny story but most likely we all have been in a similar situation where we just assumed something. We assumed how other people think about us and then acted accordingly. Maybe not as extreme as our guy with the hammer though. A common assumption is the predicted No as an answer. We assume the other person can impossibly accept our request. We are afraid of the No because we might look stupid or the other person might become angry. As a result, we refrain from asking. We omit the risk so to say. However, that is not quite right. In most of the cases, the risk of not asking is much higher because the chances to get what you want become more or less zero then. On the other side, you will be surprised how many Yes’s or at least alternative suggestions you will get if you just ask.

A nice little example is to negotiate prices in a shop. We see the price tag and the easiest is just to pay this price. Everyone does that. It is within your comfort zone. Next time you see something in a shop ask for the best price they can offer. Do it in a friendly and confident way. You will be surprised how much you can save.

Dating is another good example. How often have we not asked someone out because we were afraid of rejection or embarrassment?

Do Not Assume

Preventing assumptions is easier said than done and it is not even recommended every time. In fact, many of our assumptions are correct and very helpful. If you assume you could be hit by a car when you cross a busy road without watching this is a good assumption. It will make you watch carefully before crossing the road and thus you will reach the other side safely. Or, if your assumption that unsafe sex might spread dangerous diseases makes you use condoms, this is also a very healthy behavior too.

The Reality Check

Trust your experience and your gut feeling and make a reality check if you are unsure. The following questions might help you:

  • Does your assumption support your goal or does it work against it?
  • How likely, really, is it that the assumption is correct?
  • How can you test it?
  • What is the (realistic) worst case?
  • List possible consequences of the worst case scenario. What can you do to mitigate them?
  • What are the consequences if you stick to a possibly wrong assumption?
  • What can be an alternative (helpful) assumption instead?

People Assumptions

Many assumptions have to do with other people. How do they think about us? Will they like our ideas? Will they be angry if we approach them with a request?

We will tell you a little secret now. People do not care as much about you as you might think. They, same as you, mainly care about themselves (and about how other people might care about them).

The good thing about people assumptions is that in many cases you can just ask and check if your assumption is true.

Let us give you an example here. During a fascinating speech (in the opinion of the speaker), the whole audience was very much engaged and excited, all, except one man. He was sitting there frowning, with folded arms, shaking his head. This can be quite unsettling for a speaker. During the break, the speaker approached the man and kindly asked why he disagreed with the ideas of the speech. The man was surprised and he said that the speech just blew him away. He shook his head and frowned his eyebrows because he was so fascinated by the new concepts he had learned.

Fact or Assumption

What is a fact? What is an assumption? Surely, we cannot (and should not) omit assumptions altogether. However, we should check our assumptions. Do they support us with our goals or are they holding us back?

If you become a bit more aware of this, it also definitely helps you with achieving your goals.


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