Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Don't assume that I don't care!

The Big Issue seller was in his usual spot.  He didn't seem to be doing much business.  From a distance, it looked like there was something "off".  Was he doing or saying something to turn people off?  I soon found out.

I always say hello and occasionally buy the magazine.

He waved the current issue in my face and asked if I'd like to buy.

I smiled, said hello and shook my head.  As I did I also said that I had already purchased this edition.

"You don't fuckin' give a shit..." he muttered under his breath.

Ah, there it was, the thing was hurting his business.

Before I had thought about it, I turned back and said, "That's not true.  I do care.  I've already bought this edition and don't want to buy a second one."

He back pedalled rapidly.  "I'm sorry.  I didn't mean it.  I was talking to myself.  I didn't mean it."

As I walked away I thought about how the conversation would continue - it sounded like you were talking to me; you'd do better trade if you didn't accuse people; if you're going to talk to yourself, do it silently or think about what conversation you're going to have!

As I was walking home this evening, I thought about the assumptions that we make and what would cause someone to default to a reaction based on the assumption that people aren't buying the magazine because they don't care about homeless people.  This man has probably experienced being invisible and knocked back regularly, so it would be a reasonable assumption to make.  No matter how reasonable an assumption can seem it doesn't necessarily make it a truth.

One of the leaders who has been most influential in my life set up a rule in a team we were leading.  That rule was "check your assumptions".  We were rigorous in enforcing this rule.  It became a mantra within the team.  Constant attention to this need to check changed mindsets and meant that we were far less likely to make high-stakes decisions (or even smaller decisions) based on an assumption that was wrong.

It's a good discipline to instill, in both professional and personal life.

What assumptions do you make?  Have you ever made a decision based on a wrong assumption?

1 comment:

  1. This has happened to me before a number of times. I think we also assume that these people have a full mental capacity to assess life. Sadly most of them don't. That doesn't mean I'm going to stop buying The Big Issue. Just not two of every copy.