Avoid Assumptions to Navigate the Conversational Highway This is the fourth in a blog series on the course I am taking on Conversational Intelligence by Judith E. Glaser. The fourth module called, “Navigating Conversations” provides tools to remap relationships around trust and navigate conversations successfully. When things start to go awry in conversations it is often due to conversational assumptions. If you can … Continue reading “Avoid Assumptions to Navigate the Conversational Highway” This is the fourth in a blog series on the course I am taking on Conversational Intelligence by Judith E. Glaser. The fourth module called, “Navigating Conversations” provides tools to remap relationships around trust and navigate conversations successfully. When things start to go awry in conversations it is often due to conversational assumptions. If you can become more aware of these assumptions, you can foster trust in your communications with others. Conversational Assumptions Assumption #1: Assuming everyone thinks like you (or should think like you). When you are engrossed and attached to your point of view, you are unable to connect with others’ perspectives. Are you addicted to being right or winning a debate? During a conversation, you may subconsciously sense a lack of connectivity, and kick into persuasion mode to go for the win! Winning a debate, whether the debate is real or perceived, triggers the neurochemical dopamine. This dopamine release makes you feel good and you may not even realize that in the process you have made others feel bad. Assumption #2: Feelings don’t change your reality. This common assumption refers to your failure to realize that your emotions will change how you see and interpret reality, which in turn, changes how you communicate that reality. If you are in a state of fear or distrust, you produce cortisol which shuts down the prefrontal cortex part of your brain, the area that gives you access to empathy, strategic thinking, and innovation. This causes you to feel threatened and move into protective behaviors which can hinder a productive conversation. Assumption #3: You can still empathize while you are in fear. Assumption #2 can easily lead to assumption #3. If you are fearful, you are unable to consider another person’s perspective in order to build empathy and understanding. Research done by Giacomo Rizzolatti in 1999 determined that our brains have unique neurons called mirror neurons. These neurons give us a view into what others feel, think and intend. When you listen deeply and turn off your fear and judgment, you allow yourself to connect with others. When you are fearful, the ability to connect is broken and your sensitivity to others recedes. Assumption #4: You remember, therefore you know. This assumption is that you think you remember what others said when actually you remember what you THINK about what others said. Researchers as early as 1957, published articles on the gaps in listening. People drop out of listening because the brain processes information much faster than we can talk. Instead of slowing down the brain to the rate of the spoken word, you fill those gaps with other thoughts. Your internal dialogue overrides the other person’s speech. You then remember what you think about what the other person said because it is a stronger internal process and chemical signal. Assumption #5: You are listening so you think you actually know what others really mean. The assumption that meaning resides with the speaker, when it actually resides with the listener, characterizes this reality gap. As you listen you are trying to make meaning from the speaker’s words by drawing from your own experience vault in your limbic brain. That is why, as a listener, what you see in your “mind’s eye” can be a completely different picture than what the speaker sees in their mind. Meaning resides in the listener until the speaker takes the time to pause, and validate that you share the same mental picture and meaning. All humans have assumptions. They spring from reality gaps. Even when we are in the same room, you will come way from the experience with different impressions and a different understanding of time spent together. That is why conversational rituals and practices outlined in C-IQ methodologies are so important. These rituals harmonize our experiences, create a shared language, and help us bridge and connect with others more fully. How do we make the invisible assumptions visible? Stay tuned for our next blog that explores levels of open-ended questions designed to help you better navigate the conversations. Photo credit: OHoHO via Shutterstock.