It’s been said that we make 35,000 decisions a day. Some of them are conscious, and others not. Now out of those 35,000, consider the number of decisions you make a day in business. If you manage a team, that number could be higher.
Many of us are hired for our ability to make sound, logical decisions quickly. But what happens when those decisions are neither sound nor logical? Throughout our interactions with people — the conversations we engage in and the experiences we have — we sometimes jump to conclusions and assume or make up information that drives the decisions we make.
In some cases, it works. But in many cases, we fill the gap of missing information with our own narrative, and we are left with our own version of the story, which is far from the truth.
During fight-or-flight situations, making quick decisions is critical to our survival, but when it comes to everyday interactions, it can be detrimental to our relationships and future promotions.
For example, have you found yourself in a situation like this? Miranda is in a meeting and hears her executives speaking about the future of the project she’s leading. She begins to wonder why they didn’t speak to her about it since she is the lead. She then begins to draft her own narrative, in which the executives are colluding to find another lead.
Miranda believes she knows exactly who it is. The story Miranda has created in her head begins to infuriate her. At the end, she storms out and begins plotting her next move.
Filling in missing information with your own narrative is damaging because you base your story on assumptions. You work yourself up into strong emotions, which could potentially cause needless arguments with hurt feelings, ended relationships, and even stop that desired promotion from occurring. Here are three steps to avoid that fatal mistake.
1. Self-reflect. This is the No. 1 step because of its importance and its absence. We move so quickly throughout the day that we lack the necessary introspection on our intentions and behavior. While self-reflecting may sound like common sense, it is not common practice.
2. Fact check. Seek the facts before jumping to conclusions. It’s like putting the pieces of a puzzle together to see the final picture. If you are missing pieces, do what you can to find the missing information so that your final analysis is based on reality and not on supposition. Again, we fail to do this many times when it should be standard operating procedure.
3. Ask what beliefs may be working against you. In the case of Miranda, if they were looking to replace her, she could have taken a moment to ask one of the executives if there were any beliefs working against her as the lead. That question invites the listener to feel comfortable engaging in a conversation that will provide valuable feedback to you, the person asking. Because beliefs are not right or wrong, but simply held based on our experiences, we are not striking a defensive attack against the person we’re seeking information from.
Filling in missing information can be a knee-jerk reaction. We do it in the business world as well as in our personal relationships. But if we are not creating a positive spin on the story, it can be cause for strong emotions, such as anger. If you find yourself there, take time out to digest the information and employ the three steps above before your conclusion is set in stone. This best practice will not only help you in your career path, but in building healthy relationships as well.