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Lead with Facts not Assumptions

Updated: Sep 22, 2021

Communication is the key to success in so many ways. If we cannot communicate well it will hinder our own ambitions, relationships and goals. It can also impede the progress of others that might work for us or with us in some venture. This means communication is always an important part of the equation.

Understanding the importance of facts over assumptions can significantly impact your effectiveness in communication. We might readily understand the difference between facts and assumptions but you might be surprised at how often our communication does not follow this understanding. We often lead with assumptions rather than facts because we didn't distinguish between the two. This can cause us to engage in some less than productive and effective communication especially over difficult situations or content.

Let me try to illustrate what this looks like. Here is our scenario:

John works for you, he has a a recent habit of coming in late. This angers you. You confront John over his insubordination and lack of taking the job seriously. It shows he lacks a dedication to his job or a respect to you as his employer.

The scenario seems reasonable right? Think about what you might say when you confront Johnny. Will those words have anger, frustration, judgement? Very possible right? Look at the scenario again because this is where communication gets distorted. What is the lead? In the scenario the lead is not the facts, but rather emotions and assumptions, carefully consider the situation and identify what are facts, John has been coming in late. You are angry. Both of these things are facts. You know he has been coming in late and you know you are angry. The rest is all assumptions that you have made. What happens though is emotion will allow us to lead with assumptions.

What if your assumptions were wrong, what if Johnny had been getting to work late because he had to take his wife to work because their car broke down and they don't have money to fix it? If you knew that wouldn't you approach the situation differently? Would you have been angry? How would that have changed your words or your approach?

How would you lead with the facts in this scenario. The conversation might have gone something like, "Hey John, I notice that you have been coming in late (observable fact), I will be honest it has made me a bit frustrated (softened but still fact), can you tell me what's going on? I want to make sure we are on the same page." How would that conversation proceed verses the conversation leading with anger and assumptions?

Now John might have a legitimate issue or he could be careless and then you can respond accordingly, but now you are walking into better communication that leads to better listening and understanding. That is the goal of good communication. It is worth some thought and some patience when responding to other around us.

"If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame." - Proverbs 18:13 ESV

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