Assuming vs. Understanding
I had recently joined a company as Digital Marketing Head in a Software company and was cabined at ground floor of the building. I would often see a colleague, who sat in basement, was busy over calls. She would often get up from her seat and would walk around in parking area of the office compound talking over her mobile. Initially I didn’t care much but would frequently see her over calls days after days.
Her daily routine took over to my amusement and disgust that she doesn’t work and wastes time over personal calls. Since company’s HR couldn’t introduce me to her on joining as HR had to leave for some immediate official trip, I would always wonder that the girl was taking advantage of lenient policies of the company and HR’s absence in the office.
Few days passed and I settled well with few of my colleagues, sometimes even discussing about the company, boss and the employees. One fine day, I just blurted my thoughts about the girl to the close colleagues. I badmouthed her and blamed she was casual and didn’t seem to be working at all.
As I assumed the colleagues would also show their disgust but to my surprise, everyone was starring me initially and then laughed out aloud. I wondered what made them laugh. Then they told me that the girl was from Sales and that the office had weak mobile network down in the basement so, she would often do callings upstairs. In addition they informed, she has been a loyal employee of the company since last 5 years and has always been top sales performer. That day I felt so embarrassed and was also filled with guilt about my assumptions about an unknown subordinate.
Later, whenever I saw her over calls, I felt so bad about myself for judging and presuming things without knowing complete picture. Instead it would have been much better if I should have asked my close colleagues that why she was often over calls?
The Mindsets of Assuming and Understanding
There is a major difference between assuming and understanding. Making assumption and seeking understanding both require information to determine the cause to know the effect. In both cases, information is processed so that conclusion drawn can further lead to course of action. These actions can be mere reaching to a conclusion or forming an opinion and accordingly an action can be performed. This is why the mindsets for making assumptions and seeking understanding differ.
On several occasions, one would have faced difference from their bosses or subordinates on mere prior assumptions. Bosses generally assume things about their subordinates without knowing the complete picture. If the subordinate is coming late, they are generally considered unpunctual without even knowing what the reason is. May be he has some other responsibilities which he is required to fulfil before coming to office etc. Similarly employees often make assumptions about bosses. In several cases, the subordinates generally fail to realise how difficult it is for a boss to manage entire company, make decisions, deal crisis etc. What subordinate see is boss has temperament or is fussy etc.
Since assumptions doesn’t involve any core analysis, it is the fastest method of processing information. Here the people making assumptions be it the boss or subordinate, just take information and formulate an opinion about any colleague, situation, event etc. The mindset doesn’t focus on proofs, different angles or viewpoints. However, when seeking understanding, the information is analysed, complete picture is taken into consideration without any biasedness or emotional connection. These are the two preconditions for defining assumption and understanding. In rare case, a third precondition may also exist – Luck. You may be right but may eventually get wrong. So, this is a risky proposition. Since its human behaviour to opt easy and shortest way, assumptions are very common scenario in our day to day lifestyle. At work, home, personally or professionally we tend to make assumptions easily rather than seeking complete understanding.
So, how does wrong conclusion as a result of our wrong assumption can affect us? Many of us must have faced serious problems due to wrong assumptions made. An assumption gone wrong can ruin professional relationships with your team mates, seniors or subordinate. It can cause financial disaster too, good opportunities may be lost and a person can experience negativity which impacts his personality as a whole. On personal as well as professional front, wrong conclusion can cause guilt, remorse, low self-confidence etc.
At times assumptions made may not be intentional or would not have been made to cause any malice to anyone. It would have been done unintentionally as the mindset is reinforced to continue making assumptions. We start assuming things about a person as we get to interact or not. And this stand at the place where one can eventually be wrong. However, an intentionally made assumption offers space to watch, realise and rectify the wrong behaviour.
Seeking understanding or looking for wider perspective of everything has been considered a key concept in self-awareness and hence, allows one to grow personally in every aspect. Once you grow personally, you tend to grow professionally too. Seeking understanding before reaching any conclusion is also a sign of maturity and widen the thought process of an individual. This is because when seeking information, you are not just reacting to the information received by formulating it rather apply your intellect in knowing and understanding complete scenario to draw a conclusion. An understanding of your team mate, senior or subordinate helps you earn value and relations. When seeking understanding, it means you are go through a process where entire information is gained, analysed from different perspective hence, involves your effort and your desire to be righteous.
When trying to understand, you need to ask questions, you need to reason out every act and verify your information with facts and logics. You make effort in knowing what needs to be known in the same manner. You are not bothered by mere little information received initially from anyone. You are open to check, verify and change your information so, that no wrong information is taken into consideration for reaching a right conclusion. The one who is ready to make more efforts will be close to having full understanding.
Difference between Understanding and Assuming
There are few key differences between Understanding & Assuming. However, the intention between the two is same that is to reach a conclusion, form opinion or to determine the further course of action. The first major difference is Mindset. Understanding requires Patience, information gathering skill, confidence, good intention, and analytical mindset, whereas, Assuming requires a mindset that is impatient and focussed on reaching conclusion. The basis of success of seeking understanding lies in identifying assumption, obtaining necessary information and verifying. On the other hand, in case of Assuming there is incomplete information, unreasonable & unemotional analysis of information and luck. Ramifications (External factors) in seeking understanding is that it helps in building value in relationships and may result in profitability. However, Assuming can result in Damaging relationships, financial problems and negativity. In addition to external factors, Seeking Understanding also helps in internal growth that is empowering, self-awareness and self-growth. In contrast, Assuming leads to disempowering, lack of awareness, guilt and low self-esteem.