Every day, part of being human is making assumptions. We make assumptions that the sun will come up and the sun will go down. We make assumptions that the state of the world is somewhat like we remembered it at the time we went to bed.
We make assumptions as business owners and entrepreneurs all the time as we are working with our products and services and offers and clients. We make assumptions all the time when we’re working with one another as well.
I want to share with you some thoughts that I put together for my business team on the day after we had had a little bit of an awkward meeting. Weekly, we get together and we have a heads up, “What’s on the agenda for the workflow? Who needs to be involved, and to what degree?” and we try to provide other information to one another as well. During the last business gathering, our Zoom phone conversation, it became apparent to me that there was a misunderstanding between what the team or what specifically a couple of people on the team interpreted as my reaction to a comment, and what I really meant it to be. And this is what had got me thinking about the role of assumptions.
So as I said, this was originally shared with my team, and I thought it might be worth sharing with you as well.
I’ve spent the better part of the last four decades involved in teaching and learning. I’ve studied theories of curriculum and instruction and applied them as a public school teacher, as a college and university professor, as part of the US Department of Defense, Army Corps of Engineers, and as something called an AFPAK Hand over in Central Asia.
I’ve applied these theories of curriculum instruction as a mom, as a wife, and as a digital marketing strategist. And this I know. Each one of us is a complex individual who perceives the world and her or his place in it from a vantage point that is unique.
As much as we try to share this perspective with others, it’s really not possible because of the genetic and environmental circumstances that have come together to make us each who we are.
So I’m going back to the need for closure that I mentioned yesterday. It’s not a need for closure that I crave. It’s a need for communication. So let me explain.
You all know the story, or at least most of the story, varying degrees of the story, about how I got to now with ABEM Digital Creations. It was not an expected career move, and for the most part, the development and the growth of the agency has been a totally organic business experience. I actually enjoy the unknown and taking risk. (Check out the Digital Alchemy Podcast episode called “Lessons from the Trapeze” for more on this!)
There’s a traditional folk song called Over the Waterfall. I love the recording of it by Michelle Shocked. It includes a really brilliant line, which I believe is at the heart of everything. “It never hurts you when you fall. Only when you land.”
Sunday the 27th of September, 2015 was the longest day of my life. The unknown, the waiting, the questions, the assumptions. It was even longer than the day I found myself flying back to Camp Leatherneck with the body of my Marine buddy Scott Pruitt bouncing gently in the hammock next to me in the Osprey. Jim and I got the call from Eric around 11:00 on Sunday morning letting us know that he didn’t make it back Sunday night.
Angus didn’t make it back. Where was Angus? What was he up to? The Boulder County Coroner’s Office called around 7:30 that evening and put an end to the wonder and the speculation and the assumptions.
The world fell out from under me and I felt myself falling like a character in The Matrix, wondering how and when and where I’d land and knowing it would hurt. I did land. Though I was battered by the impact, there were hands to help me and arms to hug me, and wonderful friends and family full of love to give.
From deep inside myself, I found the determination and resolve to find my way and turn grief to purpose. I am healing.
Today, as I think back over these last four years, I am so thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to work with you, the professional, smart, fun team that makes up ABEM Digital Creations. I know as far as leading and working with the team that my Achilles heel is tied to communication. I can deal with pretty much anything as long as I know we’re connecting.
The first step to resolving any situation is realizing that you’re in it. This morning I reminded myself of the reasons why I have issues with communication, or the closure we discussed. This is beyond my personality or my multiple intelligences type.
I am mindfully aware that sometimes I let silence make me feel vulnerable. Sometimes silence is tied to abandonment emotion, that I know I have related to Angus’s passing. How dare he leave me to sort everything out?
Anyway, I’m determined to reach a point where I can assume that no news is good, that sometimes no news just means nothing of significance to report. God, I loved my time with the military.
So in closing, I operate best in a climate of open, transparent communication. I’m not a mind reader, and like each of you, I’m juggling 100,000 things in this life. It takes time to build trust for honest dialogue.
I want to improve and nurture the effectiveness of our team. Please feel free to share your ideas and please know that I don’t expect you to respond to this essay.
Thank you for your smiles and the positive creative energy you bring. Thank you for all you do.
Having written this for my team, I also realized that I make assumptions about my clients all the time as well, and communication is tied to that. It’s tied to that because we don’t know, and there are some times this need we have to fill in the what we don’t know, to assume we can interpret what silence means.
Take for instance, what happened with our prospective client John. John reached out to me and the ABEM team for digital marketing support. Katie, Michelle, and I had a fantastic business intensive with John, and we crafted a strategy and implementation plan for him. We sent him our proposal and quote… and heard nothing.
I assumed that no news was an indication that somehow we’d missed the mark.
When I finally heard back from John, turns out he has cancer, and he was out of work for a while getting radiation and chemotherapy. And I realized that the quiet, that the silence from him was because he was really distracted with some things that were definitely different in terms of priorities for him.
I don’t really know the solution because sometimes it is those quiet moments that still make me crazy, because I don’t want to come across as being pushy. I want to make sure that my clients know that I love transparent and open communication, and I do know that sometimes people may not want to communicate because they don’t have the money to do what we have planned, and it feels awkward or embarrassing to get ahold of me and say, “Hey, not now.”
That’s another thing, you know? Sometimes it might just be because it doesn’t feel like the fit is right, and in that case, absolutely there’s no need for us to take it any further. (That said, it is polite and courteous to let people know when something just isn’t going to work and you’re done. I wish a few of my old boyfriends whom I wish would have been like that!)
But anyway, assumptions are part of being human, and we need to mindfully recognize when we are in the midst of assuming anything, because what we think happened may not be what happened.
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