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Why assumptions rarely help transitions

The other day I got talking with a friend of mine about assumptions that people make in the workplace. These assumptions can cause massive challenges in projects and collaborations, especially if they are not communicated in a clear (and timely) way. Often it means a lot of wasted energy and time for some (or all!) people involved. 

So how does this impact career transitions or relocations? Because the same is true for these! By definition an assumption is “a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof“. We all make assumptions about things on a regular basis, so the thing to look for here is proof. Is it accurate/true or not?

Remember, we need to filter information, especially when working our way through a big change, but we can’t be lazy. To base something largely on an assumptions basically means you did not have the time/energy/inspiration/responsibility to go out and look for information if this was true or not. 

Last week I wrote about culture shock and this is one of many things that can be avoided by doing some research on those top 5 things you assume about the new country. So how then do you catch yourself with those silly assumptions and make that change as easy as possible?

  1. Communicate your assumptions both with yourself and others. Start with yourself and write down some of your assumptions around what’s coming up. Do a list, mindmap or anything else that’s useful to map what you’re thinking and feeling. Secondly, even if you have thought about something, does not mean that your family, team at work or friend knows that’s what you’ve been thinking. Bring up constructive conversations and ask questions to clarify things before it becomes an issue. 
  2. Understand the slight difference between expectation and assumption. An expectation is defined as “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case“. This can naturally be based on ‘gut feeling’, researched facts or anything in between. It’s fine to have expectations as long as you do yourself the favour to communicate properly with the right people around it. For example, if you have an expectation that there will be a promotion opportunity for you at work in the next 6 months, there is a range of discussions and activities you can engage with (both direct and indirect) to get more information if this expectation is likely to become reality. 
  3. Feedback is the breakfast of champions. It can be hard to go our there and look for facts or information, because lets face it: so many things are open for individual interpretation. You might also feel like there is a chance others will judge you because you’re asking ‘obvious questions’. It’s quite simple – the more conversations you engage in, the more different views you’ll be exposed to. You don’t need to take on the view of everyone else, but this will help you see something from more angles and increase your understanding. 
  4. Dare to set the agenda. Sometimes you need to seek information or input and sometimes you simply just need to take action based on what you currently know and put yourself out there. Even if you risk ‘getting it wrong’, it’s sometimes valuable to be bold and introduce products, ideas or conversations from your perspective. As long as you accept that your assumptions and world views might not be shared by everyone else and invite like-minded  people to collaborate further, you’re a lot more likely to move forward, compared to those who ‘stay in the lab’ forever. 

What are your thoughts around assumptions and how have you handled them during times of change? 

PS: If you have not checked out our YouTube channel, we have lots of free videos on a range of topics available there!