5 Ways Assumptions Impact Real Problem Solving

5 Ways Assumptions Impact Problem Solving

I’ve been working with a group of pre and early teens and we’ve been talking about perceptions and reality. In our last meeting, I asked if they have ever greeted someone and not been greeted in return. Emphatically – yes!

So I broke them up into small groups and asked them to come up with a list of at least 15 reasons why someone they greeted would not respond.

At first they listed things like this:

  • They hate me
  • They are mean
  • They are rude
  • They are a bully
  • They are racist

It took awhile for them to start coming up with reasons like this:

  • They are deaf
  • They are listening to headphones
  • They have a disability
  • They are on the telephone
  • They didn’t hear me
  • They don’t speak the same language as me
  • They are shy

These were things they didn’t consider:

  • They are thinking about something and not paying attention
  • They are depressed
  • They are angry about something

As our discussion unfolded, I shared two stories about adults in our international compound that have had this experience:

  • Both struggled to keep greeting someone that was not responding.
  • But both kept at it and eventually got consistent responses, and in one case those repeated greetings led to a delightful conversation.

It is easy to misinterpret someone else’s actions, to assume the worst and to quit trying.  And fascinating to consider that most of us would keep at it, if we knew the other person:

  • Were deaf or could not speak our language – we’d wave or maybe learn to sign or greet them in their native tongue.
  • Had a special need – we’d find a new way to engage.
  • Was having a bad day – we’d give them grace and try again.

So what if… They have a negative perception about people of your race or your religion?

  • Do you lose anything by greeting them anyway?
  • And what if… Your continued kindness challenges their beliefs and changes their behavior?

Now here’s the zinger: The point of this exercise is NOT connection.

It is about developing the critical life skill of problem solving.

Far too often, we make decisions based on how we feel, or what we think we know, instead of really understanding what is happening.

And those uninformed decisions:

  1. Waste time
  2. Sapp energy
  3. Increase division
  4. Make it more challenging to get to the root of the problem
  5. Impact our lives, relationships, workplaces, communities and our future

We all benefit from deep dives that examine multiple perspectives.

Please share:

  • When have you made a false assumption?
  • What was the impact?
  • What did you learn?

Want more?  Below are several real examples of how assumptions have impacted problem solving and organizational growth:

The inspirational video below highlights the impact this process has on individuals.


Image Credit:  iStock



President, Giana Consulting

Chery Gegelman is an adventurer that loves to learn. ...Deep conversations, books, travel, and daily living are all food for growth.

As a speaker, facilitator and workshop leader she creates energizing environments that reflect God's grace, tear down walls, help people to consider new perspectives, and inspire change.

Chery is the Founder of Giana Consulting and Conversation Safari's, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two leadership books.

THANK YOU for commenting and sharing!

YOU ARE INVITED: To add your comments and to share your professional, personal and faith-based stories. Diverse opinions, compassion, and inspiration are welcome! (I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 thoughts on “5 Ways Assumptions Impact Real Problem Solving

  1. Excellent post Chery! Yes, we do make assumptions and even try to complete people’s sentences and thoughts. I love the exercise you did with the teens which would work well in our corporate environments as well.
    Problem solving is a great approach to overcoming judgements and assumptions. I once worked with an individual who was a bit arrogant. It was a real “turn off” until I started to engage him and realized he was feeling upset about something. After that we forged a great relationship.
    Thanks Chery!

    • Thank you Terri! (And I am so guilty of trying to complete people’s sentences when I’m excited or when they seem to be searching for a word.)

      I agree this exercise is almost ageless.

      And I love your story about the individual who was arrogant and how understanding what was really happening altered the relationship.

  2. Chery,

    I love that you are working with young adolescents – this is the time to help them form those neural pathways and life skills. What an interesting exercise for them – and for you!