Have you ever had the opportunity to meet someone and before you met had an expectation of what you thought would occur or how that person would behave? It’s natural to worry about how an encounter will play out, especially if it is with someone you admire. It’s easy to make judgements based on assumptions, but I have found that more often than not, assumptions are wrong.

This lesson was reinforced for me when I learned I would interview former Cisco CEO and business guru, John Chambers. John is one of the world’s most successful business leaders. He has worked with presidents and dignitaries from around the globe and he turned a $1.2 billion company into a tech conglomerate with revenues of $47 billion. This man knew his stuff and I was nervous!

I had a preconceived notion of how someone with that type of resume would behave and it intimidated me. I spent days getting ready for the power meeting: studying, researching, striving to be on my game. And on the day that we spoke, I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised. Who I expected wasn’t close to who showed up!

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The first words John spoke to me clearly revealed why he is so highly regarded and respected. John was kind and generous; he was truly concerned about how he could make the experience beneficial to me. He did everything in his power to give me what I needed so I could achieve MY goal. We connected immediately and it was one of my most favorite conversations.

This experience reminded me how dangerous assumptions can be. They arise from the part of us that tries very hard to protect us from being hurt. Assumptions come from a series of perceptions and not what is real.

Here are a few ways we can avoid making assumptions:

  • Just the facts ma’am. Instead of jumping to conclusions, check the facts. If a friend didn’t call you back, don’t immediately assume she is angry with you. Take a moment to think about the facts – what actually happened that you can prove. Focus on the facts instead of the story.
  • Slow down and catch yourself. Recognize that you may be creating a scenario and jumping to a conclusion that is most likely not true. Reaction is what happens when emotions are used to handle a situation, and it happens quickly! Be present and clear so you can think rationally.
  • Communicate. Ask lots of questions and learn the facts before reacting. Making an assumption is lazy behavior; instead of getting the information needed, you jump to a conclusion.
  • Write it out. Writing is a wonderful way to release fear and tension. Write out what you are assuming and remind yourself that this is your story and not what may actually be true.

Remember the old adage: When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME.