On generous assumptions, boardrooms and Christmas gifts

I recently finished listening to Brene’ Brown’s book, Rising Strong on Audible. I have to get the hard copy, because this is one of those books I need to highlight points, write in the margins and dog-ear the pages. It was that good!

One of my  key take-aways was her concept of “Generous Assumptions.” Let me explain.

When we have an interaction with someone, and their response isn’t what we expect, for instance I throw out a suggestion or idea, and you come back with a less than enthusiastic response, my mind makes up a story about what I think is motivating your response. That story is most often NOT what you are thinking at the time. Instead of talking about it, I walk away defeated, allowing the story I made up in my head to define the interaction, and possibly even our relationship. It happens every single day. Well, at least it does to me.

One of the ways Brown says we can change that, is to be generous with our assumptions when faced with a reaction that is not what we expected and potentially will hijack our emotions. Instead of letting my mind take the story I am making up in my head and applying it negatively to this interaction, I can instead either choose not to let the interaction define me (I’m an idiot or my idea was stupid), or revisit it with that person, (tell them the story I made up in my head), and have them clarify for me what was behind the negative reaction.

Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? Maybe not.

This can and will be a great tool in my marriage and in my close relationships, because I can revisit the story I’m making up in my head with them. But around the boardroom table this week, I recognized that I make many assumptions about people, and they aren’t always generous.

She’s vying for attention.

He thinks I’m a lousy manager.

I’m too outspoken. Did I speak out of turn?

He thinks I’m way off base here.

Instead, what if I generously assumed that we are all a little anxious about this meeting:

She wants to make a good impression and so do I. She has some great ideas I could use.

He thinks I do my job well and can do it even better with a few tweaks here and there.

I am not too outspoken. I bring value to the team and my ideas have merit.

My ideas might be new, need further thought, and he may need time to think about them.

It’s amazing how an intentional change in the way I apply  my assumptions can change the way I walk out of a meeting or a tense interaction with someone. I really really want to apply this more in the future. So, I wrote

Generous Assumptions

and taped it to my computer monitor at the office, along with my reminders to be brave, have courage and take risks (you can read that post here).

At this time of year, when gifts are made or purchased, wrapped with care and placed under the tree, think about all the expectations we have about the reactions we are expecting the recipient to give us.

She is going to love this!

He will be so excited when he opens this!

Instead, we might get a lackluster response, and feel like we missed the mark, or that person is an ungrateful jerk. Let’s be generous with our assumptions this Christmas, okay? Let’s put the expectations aside, enjoy the moments, and give others a break. Let’s stop the stories we are making up in our heads right there and give the gift of a generous assumption.

Are you with me?

Merry Christmas friends!

One Comment on “On generous assumptions, boardrooms and Christmas gifts

  1. I’m WITH you, Kari! MERRY CHRISTMAS with “generous assumptions” to you! ❤️

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