Are you making assumptions?

Zoi Kantounatou

Assumptions are an integral part of our decision-making process and have been an important aspect of our evolution over the years. It was vital for our survival to assume what was safe and what wasn’t. We have also been using assumptions to innovate and invite as they go hand in hand with our imagination.
Whether it is in our personal or professional lives, we tend to make assumptions all the time. However, assumptions can be misleading, and if left unchecked, they can lead us down the wrong path. That is why it is essential to check our assumptions regularly. Read further to explore the importance of checking your assumptions and the benefits it can bring to your decision-making process.

What are assumptions?

Assumptions are beliefs we hold about the world and how it works. They are often based on our experiences, upbringing, opinions, and perspectives. Our brain uses assumptions to make sense of the world around us and make our lives easier and more predictable.

However, assumptions can also be harmful. They are based on our brain’s inability to be comfortable with not knowing. It will always find ways to fill the gaps and that can limit our understanding of the world, leading to narrow-mindedness and stereotyping. For example, assuming that someone is lazy because of their ethnicity or assuming that someone is unreliable because of their gender is harmful and unfair. Assumptions can also lead to poor decision-making, as they can be based on incomplete or inaccurate information.

Why is it Important to check your assumptions?

We can imagine our view of the world and different situations represented as an iceberg. What we see is the top but there is so much more under the surface that we don’t know about. Making decisions based on our assumptions is reacting only on what information we get from the top of the “iceberg”. 

Checking your assumptions is essential because it helps you make better decisions.

Avoiding Confirmation Bias
Confirmation bias is a cognitive bias that refers to our tendency to seek out information that confirms our beliefs and ignore information that contradicts them. When we make assumptions, we are more likely to look for evidence that supports them, and we might overlook evidence that contradicts them. By checking our assumptions, we can avoid confirmation bias and make more informed decisions.

Enhancing Critical Thinking Skills
Checking your assumptions requires critical thinking skills. You need to evaluate the evidence, consider alternative perspectives, and be open-minded. By practising these skills, you can enhance your critical thinking abilities, which can be useful in all areas of your life.

Improving Decision-Making
Checking your assumptions can help you make better decisions. When you examine your assumptions, you are more likely to consider all the relevant information, weigh the pros and cons, and make a more informed decision. By making better decisions, you can achieve your goals more effectively.

Building Stronger Relationships
Assumptions can cause misunderstandings and conflicts in relationships. By checking your assumptions, you can clarify misunderstandings, resolve conflicts, and build stronger relationships. When you communicate effectively, you can build trust and deepen your connections with others.

Bring inclusivity in your organisation 
By thinking and listening before judging or making a decision you become open to hear different perspectives, understand a variety of opinions and bring empathy to the different life and work experiences people bring to the table.

How to check your assumptions

Checking your assumptions is not always easy. Here are some steps you can take to check your assumptions effectively:

Identify Your Assumptions
The first step is to identify your assumptions. A question that can help you doing so is: What am I assuming here? Think about what you believe and why you believe it. 

Examine the Evidence
Examine the evidence that supports your assumptions. Look for evidence that contradicts them. Be open-minded and consider alternative perspectives.

Consider the Consequences
Consider the consequences of your assumptions. What are the implications of your assumptions? Are there any negative consequences? Are there any positive consequences?

Communicate Effectively
Communicate effectively with others. Ask questions, seek clarification, and listen carefully. Avoid making assumptions about what others are thinking or feeling.

Being aware and checking your assumptions are essential parts of leading effectively and managing teams efficiently. It takes practice to check your assumptions effectively, but it is a skill worth developing.
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