Mon | Jul 23, 2018

Jumping to conclusions

Published:Sunday | May 22, 2016 | 12:00 AM

I shared a corny joke in webinars as to why Jamaica does so well in athletics - we like to run things and jump to conclusions.

The making of assumptions is a problem that escapes the limelight. However, its frequency, pervasiveness and impact have far-reaching implications.

Why should we be concerned about jumping to conclusions?

• A young man's life was saved by a security guard as his work colleague attempted to cut his throat.

His colleague's bus fare was missing, and he assumed that the young man had stolen it. The assumption proved to be wrong.

• An organisation invested significant resources in preparing a potentially game-changing bid. The bearer dropped it in the wrong bid box. He assumed that the box in the reception area was the only one. The correct one was on the third floor.

- The car-rental agent showed me the exit that I should take off 1-95, including the lane to use when nearing the exit. I circled the airport twice, gave up and returned to the parking area to ask him how to get out of the airport. He assumed that I knew how to get on to the I-95.

- A wife came across a receipt from a florist. Not having received flowers around that period, she assumed that something was a miss. Trust issues and conflict resulted from that assumption. His friend who was overseas asked him to get flowers for his girlfriend.




In the Jamaican parlance, the problem is with the word 'mussi'. "'Im mussi have woman outside". 'Must be' is not always what it appears to be. That is the fundamental appreciation that we need to have if we are going to address this problem of jumping to conclusions.

There are more than enough TV scenarios where they stack all the circumstantial evidence to point to one character, only to produce a surprise ending where someone else is the guilty party. Like me, you may have ended up dead wrong on an issue that you were dead sure about.

Take that reality into your perceptions and pronouncements going forward. Treat each emerging situation as a potential addition to your dead wrong track record.

One helpful insight as we grapple with assumptions is the fact that we tend to leap in a direction that is linked to how we feel about the individual or the circumstances.

In a low-trust relationship, the wife leaps to suspicion and harbours pent-up feelings that negatively impact the marriage. In an open, high trust marriage, the wife is confident that there is a logical explanation and is comfortable enquiring about it without any sense of betrayal or doubting.

Mindset is such a powerful influencer of interpersonal relationships and how we manage our journey through life. Confronted by similar situations, individuals with different mindsets experience results that are poles apart. Work continuously to transform your mindset into one that is more positive.




We set the platform for healthier relationships when we learn to give others the benefit of even the minuscule doubt that we may have. When we commit to distilling the facts, we will notice that we will be engaged a lot more in asking questions as against making assumptions.

But there is yet another dimension to this issue of assumptions. It relates to the millions of dollars that are being lost daily as it relates to the giving and receiving of instructions in organisations.

In a workshop exercise, I showed one way to produce an object. Pairs were asked to create something similar with their backs to each other and one party giving the instructions. I watched one executive confirm "left" and went "right". He assumed that his partner was replicating my actions.

It is scary to contemplate the level of rework, waste, frustration and low productivity that results from parties having clarity about what is being communicated but are in fact on different pages all together.

Share with me your assumption story - Families are not immune. Come to the St Andrew Church of Christ's Annual Family Workshop - Holy Childhood, May 28, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. FREE.

• Trevor E S Smith is a behaviour modification coach with the Success with People Academy. Email