“Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.”
~ Miguel Angel Ruiz
Do you know the feeling when you get up in the morning and everything just seems to be going your way, you feel really good about yourself and your day, ready to conquer the world, but then something happens out of the blue that bursts your bubble?
Well, this is exactly what happened to me this morning when I received an email from someone that I don’t even know. This person pointed out some grammatical mistakes in one of my postings for an upcoming library workshop on a community website. I found it really thoughtful that she went out of her way to let me know, BUT it was HOW she did it that was disappointing.
Her email was very much written in “lecture style”, talking down to me by saying “she is giving me a chance”, “giving me a hint” and “she wished me fun in spotting the mistakes”. That’s the power of words. They can either lift you up or bring you down.
It became clear to me that she didn’t really want to help; she wanted to show how smart she is. At least that’s how her response came across.
The interesting part is that she assumed that I made these mistakes without even asking me any questions. If she would have taken the time to ask, she would have learned that the community website posting was written by someone else and that’s how the grammatical mistakes happened.
She could have easily said, “Are you aware that the posting of your library workshop on our community website has some serious grammatical mistakes?” and with that she could have set the tone to perhaps establish a new and meaningful business relationship.
While there is no question that it doesn’t matter who made the mistakes, ultimately these mistakes would reflect negatively on me and my business. What does matter to me however, is the tone of an email or conversation.
It is important to understand that making assumptions can create huge misunderstandings and that’s why it is important to challenge our assumptions all the time and better yet, not to make them at all. This certainly is not an easy thing to do.
I am a second language speaker and I am proud of the fact that I am able to speak and write as I do. Am I perfect? Certainly not, but aren’t these little imperfections part of our human existence? I am constantly striving to get better but I also know that certain people think that immigrants are not as smart as they are because their English may not be up to par. However, I also know many people who have English as their first and only language, and they make mistakes too. Having said this, nobody should ever think that just because of their position in life, their title, their age, or their seniority, that they have earned the right to put others down, neither in their business nor in their personal life.
This small incident this morning made me think how often this happens in the corporate world. People’s self-confidence and self-image gets damaged because of people who deal with their own insecurities by putting others down. This really should no longer be happening in highly educated work environments! I see this as one of the main reasons why the majority of people aren’t able to live up to their full potential. They have lost sight of what they are really capable of doing.
Here is what I have learned:
- Believe in the best in people and don’t make assumptions!
- Don’t miss out on building great relationships just because you don’t know how to communicate effectively.
- Nobody has earned the right to put others down.
Believe in yourself and believe in others and the world will be a more sincere and respectful place.
I personally live by the words of Eleanor Roosevelt who said it best, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”