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Clarify, clarify, clarify!

Rid yourself of misguided assumptions

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in Career Management,Workplace Communication

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, author Robert Pirsig describes “gumption traps” as “low quality things which destroy enthusiasm and leave you ... discouraged.” He warns that making bad assumptions poses one of the biggest of these types of traps.

Here’s how to avoid assumptions that can lead you astray:

Follow up in print. After you discuss action plans with employees, don’t assume everyone understands what they’re supposed to do. Clarify tasks in writing, defining specific jobs and confirming due dates. Let workers ask questions to eliminate potential misunderstandings.

Acknowledge clashing needs. Don’t assume your employees’ motives mirror your own. You may seek career advancement, but less ambitious workers may care more about stability or familiarity. Empathizing with others prevents you from projecting your own beliefs or preferences onto them. Also remember that what excites you about a project may bore the pants off everyone else.

Assess outcomes fairly. You assume the worst and then plan accordingly. Yet that makes you more anxious and exposes you to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, analyze best-case, worst-case and everything in between with dry-eyed objectivity. Don’t dwell on negatives to the point where you’re convinced disaster is inevitable.

Cut yourself some slack. If you’re insecure, you may focus so intently on what others think of you that you forget to listen. What’s worse, if you assume people don’t like you, don’t respect your work product or question your credibility, then you inject defeat into every conversation. You’ll assume you are doomed from the start. Solution: Listen openly without mental baggage or self-doubt getting in the way.

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