Assumptions and all that

Are you aware of your own biases and assumptions you make about others?

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We make assumptions all the time. It just happens and sometimes we catch ourselves out and question them. That is a good thing when it happens. Too many times we allow assumptions to get in the way of what actually is.

I read an article from a writer who had gone for a bike ride in central London. He found himself stopping to make some notes and suddenly a policeman comes up to him and says in a stern way ‘Is something the matter? Do you need help?’ He looked up, confused and realised he was in front of the US embassy, hence the policeman’s attention. He apologised and cycled on, stopping again a while later. This time he needed a rest as he was unfit and stood breathing heavily on the side of the road. An older man came up to him and asked in a concerned way if he needed help. He didn’t but it made him think of how, in a matter of an hour, he was seen as a potential threat or a possible heart attack victim. How different we are seen or see other people depending on who and where we are.

What can we learn from this kind of story?

I have become very aware of a lot of my own biases and assumptions and am working on questioning these as soon as they appear. Who is this person behind the facade? What do I actually know about them? What do I base my assumptions on?

Also, in every day situations assumptions are being made all the time, for example when driving. A car is driving in front of you and you assume they will continue straight ahead. Suddenly they slam on the breaks and want to turn. If you are too close, you will end up driving into them. We have to pay attention all the time and be prepared for unforeseen situations.

It’s easy to make assumptions as most of those times we have incomplete information about a situation or a person. There can also be an unwillingness to ask the questions we need to complete the information. So, in the absence of that information, we have to fill in the blanks ourselves.

Whenever we are in doubt, ask if possible. Clarifying and knowing is so much better!

This goes for any work situation as well. If unsure about who is doing what, ask. Don’t assume someone else is doing it. Dare to ask questions, that is how we learn!

Assumptions and biases are some of the topics in Family Focus UK’s workshops.

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Ase Greenacre

Founder & facilitator , MRT Consultants

We help people in the workplace to become aware of their own impact and choices in their lives. What do we need to do to help ourselves and others to be in better place emotionally? How do we look after our mental health? Mental health and emotional wellbeing is top of the agenda and this is what we work with. The effect in our personal and professional lives is immense.