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How Do You Know?

Beware! When judging the actions of people around you, what appears at first sight to be perfectly obvious may not be so obvious after all!

by Naomi Karten

During a skiing lesson last winter, I heard the instructor, Laurie, say to a fellow in the class, "How can I get you to . . .?" Before she said another word, I became annoyed.

What a terrible training technique, asking students what she has to do to get them to stop their sloppy skiing. How can she expect students to feel motivated to improve if she's going to chastise them? Laurie was a great instructor, but as her rebuke revealed, she fell short in the way she offered feedback.

Or did she?

In the fraction of a second after Laurie's "How can I get you to," I had an entire conversation with myself. I knew what she was going to say, and I knew what I thought about what she was going to say.

Have you ever done that? Similarly, have you ever known positively what the expression on someone's face signified? Or known with certainty the explanation for someone's actions or behavior?

Have you ever jumped to a conclusion and then discovered you were wrong?

I may be wrong, but I'm quick!

Jumping to conclusions is a natural thing, usually without negative consequences. But what about the times when you immediately judged a person's behavior or intentions and reacted in a way that created a muddled mess?

If you were lucky, you quickly learned of your mistake, so you could gulp, or apologize, or rectify the situation. More serious, though, are the times when your hasty conclusions created a problem you didn't learn about till much later - or maybe even never learned about at all.

Suggestion: When someone's words, actions or behavior leads you to quickly pounce on a conclusion, ask yourself: How do I know that this is so?

If your answer casts even just the slightest doubt on your conclusion, put it aside till you can learn more. If circumstances permit, ask questions to clarify your interpretation of the other party's intentions or actions.

And notice those times when you were positive your conclusion was correct and later learned you were wrong. Awareness and acknowledgement of your behavior will help you transform your jumping into an occasional hop.

I'm much better than I used to be about jumping to conclusions. But alas, not always, particularly in the realm of listening, as I realized when I heard the rest of Laurie's question to my schuss-mate: "How can I get you to do it like that every time?"

Ohmygoodness. She wasn't chastising him, she was complimenting him. Her question was a gracious way of praising him for skillfully carrying out a maneuver that had eluded him all morning and of encouraging him to strive to do it again and again.

Repeat after me: How do I know, how do I know, how do I know?

2007 Naomi Karten, www.nkarten.com

Naomi Karten - speaker, consultant and author - works with organizations that want to improve customer satisfaction and with groups that want to work together more amicably. She has have given seminars and presentations to more than 100,000 people around the world. She has published several important books on topics relating to communication skills, career advancement, management and customer relations.

Note from Azriel: Naomi's online newsletter Perceptions and Realities is really outstanding. See for yourself!

Some Related Articles:

Think Before You Label People!
Exercise Caution in Judgment, But Never in Understanding
You Have to Probe Deeper: On the Danger of First Impressions
Putting Out the Dirt: Consequences of a Judgmental Attitude
Is It You or Is It Me That's Out of Line?
Taking Interpersonal Relationships to a New Level
Focus on the Positive Aspects

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