Two Questions to Check Your Assumptions

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What do you believe about others?

Do you think most people do their best and apply themselves more often than not?

Or, are you on the other end of the spectrum: maybe you believe people avoid hard work and taking responsibility, and have to be forced to do what is required in their job.

Or, are your beliefs somewhere in between these extremes?

These “polar opposite” beliefs are also known as Theory Y and Theory X. Influential social psychologist Douglas McGregor described them in his classic 1960 management book, The Human Side of Enterprise.

If you're like many global inhabitants, you act in accordance with your beliefs. Your beliefs drive your behaviors.

That's all well and good – if your assumptions, your beliefs, are built upon solid ground.

Some of our assumptions are dusty – or rusty – having been in our heads and hearts for so long that we don't even think about them!

With flawed assumptions, one ends up behaving badly simply because he or she so thoroughly trusted their beliefs.

Understanding one's beliefs helps one assess the effectiveness of his or her plans, decisions, and actions.

So, how does one test the fundamental accuracy of one's beliefs? It takes character and willingness to first examine those beliefs and then to “refine and align” them based upon what one learns.

Consider these two questions as you examine your current belief set.

Do the facts support your beliefs?

  • Seek multiple sources for facts. Don't trust any one channel exclusively. When you receive an unsolicited email saying you've won $4,500,000, you don't immediately send the sender your bank login details (do you?). Yet when a radio host says a congressperson is an idiot, some accept that as truth, despite not digging deeper to understand. Everyone has an agenda. Make sure yours is a fully informed agenda.
  • Learn from opposing viewpoints. Engage with people who see things differently than you. Ask questions – don't make statements that put people on the defensive. Invite discourse. You don't have to agree with what you hear! And, we each must learn others' views and then honor their context with grace.
  • Don't trust labels. Labels limit! Labels crush cooperative interaction. Engage with people and learn what they see and what they know. Compare their experience with yours. You don't have to be best buddies; you still choose who to hang with. You still choose your beliefs. Just don't call them names.

Do your behaviors inhibit people from being fully present and engaged?

  • Be civil. We need to honor our neighbors and co-workers. Their differing viewpoints do not mean they are bad people. By being rude and belligerent, you stifle communication, trust, and respect. Civility means acting with respect – even if I disagree with you.
  • Expect the best and give others the benefit of the doubt. People are doing the best they can under their circumstances. Set fair standards and hold people accountable for them. Cheer progress, redirect players when needed, and be encouraging rather than discouraging. People will live UP to (or DOWN to) your expectations.

What do you do to regularly check your assumptions? How do you ensure civil interactions with family, neighbors, and co-workers? Contribute your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

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S. Chris Edmonds
S. Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of The Purposeful Culture Group. After a 15-year executive career leading and managing successful business teams, Chris began his consulting company in 1990. Under Chris’ guidance, culture clients have consistently boosted their customer satisfaction and employee engagement rates by 40 percent or more and results and profits by 35 percent or more.