We used to have a saying in the military - never assume, because it makes an ASS out of U and ME. There are various other sayings surrounding assumptions but as they are expressed in slightly more 'colourful' language I am choosing to leave them out of this blog!
So what are assumptions? The Oxford Dictionary Online gives this definition:
In NLP terms we label assumptions as beliefs. They are things that are held at an unconscious level and to some extent the determine how we process and filter information about the world around us and how we make decisions. They are held together by our values and a collection of beliefs and values can be described as an attitude. The thing is that they aren't based on evidence, beliefs are just that, something that is accepted as being true without proof. Our beliefs change all the time, the thing to be aware of is whether or not your beliefs are useful and empowering for you or not.
Let's consider a work based scenario:
You are working on a project that requires input from a team member, Jim who works from home. Since the planning meeting for the project you have heard nothing from Jim who actually disagreed with you about the project and made his feelings known at the meeting. You have attempted to call him several times and had no reply, additionally you have e-mailed him asking for the information that you need and even after a couple of days have had no reply. You now conclude that Jim is avoiding your calls and ignoring your emails. The week rolls on and still nothing from Jim, you are now livid as your work is suffering because you can't progress with the project. You begin to believe that Jim may actually be doing this deliberately in order to hold you up, that he is in fact sabotaging you. You decide that you will do the same to Jim and email his boss requesting that they 'have a word' with Jim.
It is early on Monday of the following week, you have just got to work and Jim is in the office, you immediately feel your blood boil and you go to confront him. Before you get the chance Jim smiles, and says morning, how are you doing, fancy a cuppa? You still challenge him about his lack of contact and Jim calmly explains he was busy with a family crisis last week, his father had been rushed into hospital and he spent most of the week by his fathers side in a hospital ward.
I'm wondering how many of you recognise this type of event?
Looking at the graphic below you will see that there are 7 stages to getting to the point where you take action based on your beliefs. The reality is that this can happen in the blink of an eye, unless you are aware of what is going on.
Let's examine some of the rungs of the ladder.
- Observable data and experiences.
This is the information that is taken into our neurology by our 6 senses. In any second there are at least 2 million bits of information being absorbed by our bodies. The interesting thing is that we can only be consciously aware of 7Mbs +/- 1 or 2 The rest is either Deleted, because it isn't important, Distorted to make it fit with previous experiences, or Generalised because you have already learned it.
- Select data.
This is an unconscious process, you may select data and not even be aware of it!
- Add meaning.
- Make assumptions & Draw conclusions.
If we believe Senge's model then these are set out as seperate parts of the ladder. The reality is that at an unconscious level this happened instantaneously as the data was being filtered and coded. This is where you then...
- Adopt beliefs about the world and
- Take actions based on our beliefs.
This process is in practice a never ending reflexive loop, because as soon as you adopt a new belief you change your internal filters, so that the way you process data the data at the bottom of the ladder changes. Imagine for a second that Jim didn't tell you his father was ill and offered no explanation, what would you then believe about him? Lazy, uncooperative, selfish?
So what's the point? It is human nature to form beliefs and opinions, the thing is to be able to work out which ones are useful and empowering and which ones are dis-empowering or even become limiting beliefs. Once you can do this you will be able to really be self aware. I suggest that you practice the following until they become second nature for you.
- Pay attention to your own thinking and reasoning, take a moment to reflect on things.
- Allow others to have insight into how you are thinking and forming conclusions. This will allow others to really understand you and prevent them from racing up the ladder. They may not agree with you but they will understand why you are doing something.
- Ask others to explain their reasoning and thinking so that you are able to understand what is going on for them, that way you can keep your feet firmly on the ground. For me as a coach and therapist this is a skill that has become second nature.
Apply these simple principles to your practice and before long you will find that you stop forming false assumptions, have increased your flexibility of thinking and reasoning and your further developed your EQ.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post, if it has been useful for you please feel free to share it elsewhere. Just reference it to Mark Minary.
Remember that The Transformational Changes Team can provide you with all of your NLP and Corporate training, as well as life changing personal coaching and therapies. You can contact us here.