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When second-guessing isn’t such a bad thing…

February 19, 2013

So a big black dog barks at you, his fur on end, sounding (and looking!) as if he wants to eat you for breakfast.  What do you see?  Mean, scary dog?  Exit stage left as quickly as possible?  Take a second look – notice the tail between the legs and the shaking?  Suddenly it’s a scared dog, trying to protect himself by keeping you away.  It’s all in the perception – how closely do you look?  Do you ask yourself what the driver of the action is?  Or just assume and move on?

We all know the dangers of assumptions (and what they make of us!).  That loud, obnoxious person who keeps talking over everyone?  They could just be a loud, obnoxious person.  Or they could be terrified, feeling in over their head, and trying to distract from the areas they’re least comfortable with. Maybe they just need an environment where they don’t feel they need to be perfect.   And that quiet wallflower who never says a word in meetings?  True, they could be completely checked out, paying zero attention to what’s going on.  Or they could be too shy to speak up, or could have been brutally shot down before when trying to contribute (and yes, I chose the word brutal specifically – I’ve seen situations where it’s truly the only appropriate description).  Again, do you assume, or do you investigate?  The chance for a great contribution and development could be passed by if you go with the assumption.

Take a second look, and question your  assumptions.  If it’s really a bad situation, you’ll be able to make an informed decision based on information rather than assumptions.  And if not, you could salvage both a questionable situation, and a person who needs some help.  Not a bad trade-off for a bit of second guessing!

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