Sometimes we don’t see things clearly. By things, I mean situations at work or in our personal lives. Either we don’t view the situation in the proper context, or we infuse our own personal prejudices to a point where we have a distorted view of the situation. The problem is, when we do this, we are usually unaware that we are doing so.
I recently found myself having to visit my optometrist three times in as many months to find out why my new glasses weren’t working well for me.
During my third visit, the doctor once again asked to read the letters on her electronically projected eye chart.
“Can you read the letters you see in front of you?” she asked.
“How would I know?” I asked.
“Well, tell me what you see and I’ll tell you if you’re right,” she responded.
“What does that have to do with your first question?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” she said—obviously confused by my response.
“It’s simple,” I answered. “You asked me if I can read the letters. I told you I’m not sure if I can read them. The reason I’m not sure is because this is my third exam in as many months and you use the same letters every time. How could I be sure if I’m actually reading them or if I have them memorized and I’m cheating?” As well as I may think I know myself, I know enough about how the mind works to know that I probably couldn’t be sure whether I was reading the letters or reciting them from memory.
Assumptions and The Way the Mind Works
This is how the mind works. When we view any situation, the mind does all it can to assure us that what we think we see is true. The problem is we then begin to behave to what we see as we see it.
If you want to have some fun with this, try making fewer assumptions about situations at home or at work, and instead ask more clarifying questions when people talk to you. You may just find that you misread or infuse meaning into things more often than you think you do. Asking clarifying questions is a critical skill for salespeople and business leaders. It makes them smarter and more effective. A lack of clarity often causes problems. More clarity often creates fewer problems.
Some people are reticent to ask questions, thinking it makes them appear stupid. That’s only true if you ask stupid questions. Asking smart, clarifying questions can actually demonstrate your intelligence. I can’t tell you how many of my clients have hired me to advise them because of the clarifying questions I asked them in our initial discussion or consultation.
By the way, for those of you who choose to start asking more clarifying questions as soon as you read this blog, give me a call and I can help. My new glasses are working just fine, thank you very much.