Are you committing ‘Assumicide’?

The Urban Dictionary entry for ‘assumicide’ reads: “When your assumptions lead to dire consequences that could lead you to your potential demise, you commit assumicide.”

Source: Dilbert https://dilbert.com/strip/2020-01-06

Recently, I joined a Learner Community call, hosted by the Inquiry Institute. I was just excited to be able to be in the same Zoom call with Dr Marilee Adams! She is one of my favorite authors. Her work on deep mindset work spans 30 years and her book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life is such a joy to read.

What struck me the most from that call was how our own mindset affects how we think, listen, speak, and act, moment by moment. It made me think about the assumptions I make – big and small. They are present in conversations with colleagues: when I don’t cross-check what I understood about a certain task and went ahead with what I believed was the mutually-agreed move, and discovering later that we had not been on the same page. They are also present in conversations with family and friends: when I don’t clarify what someone meant in their remarks, which made me decide to distance myself from them, only realizing much later that those remarks were not even about me.

It does seem tedious sometimes, doesn’t it? To clarify everything when you are not sure about the meaning of what was said, or when you are about to start your share of the work after a meeting discussing it. Imagine though; the effective use of time and effort on an assignment thanks to a quick clarification, or the peace of mind you get from knowing that you did not misjudge someone over something you thought you heard them say.

A couple of things have helped me over the years:

  1. Asking “What do you mean by that?” in a non-threatening way. Connecting the intention with the action helps my question to come across as a genuine request for information instead of an attack. At the same time, I am prepared to clarify that question always because depending on the state of the person I am conversing with, they may accept my question in a different way from what I intended.
  2. Giving a quick recap of the picture or information in my mind and checking that we are aligned. “This is what I see; are we on the same page?”
  3. Suspending my judgement and continue to listen for information that can clarify the question I have in mind. This, more than often, have helped me to connect the dots in conversations.

At the foundation of all these steps, however is my own mindset. It governs my intention, my thinking, my emotions and my behaviors. Listening to the what I say to myself (in my head) helps me to keep a finger on the pulse and lower the volume of some words that would not be useful to keeping a calm and open mind, which I would need to remain in the moment.

Still have a long way to learn though, but with books like Dr Marilee Adam’s Change Your Question Change Your Life and Edgar H Schein’s Humble Enquiry, help is always available.

Hope you are keeping yourself in the moment too!

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