Creative Leadership

Why Making Assumptions Can Lead to Disaster

We all make assumptions about things and in my case, they’re almost always wrong. I was talking to Dawn Nicole Baldwin during a digital communications project we were leading for a client recently, and mentioned my habit of making incorrect (and often embarrassing assumptions.) She told me an interesting story about a recent experience visiting a local church:

Dawn: A friend of mine doesn’t go to church but one day decided she’d like to try and find one. Her husband was skeptical, so she chose to visit one near her home with her kids first before asking her husband to go with her. I went with her and as we were walking up the pastor was outside the door greeting people as they came into the sanctuary.

The first thing he said to us was, “Good morning ladies—where are the men?” He made a huge assumption because after all, I could have been a widow, and my friend could have been a single mom. It was so awkward, uncomfortable, and actually condescending that she stopped trying to find a church.

Dawn felt there were two lessons from the experience:

1. Don’t assume. Don’t ever assume. You never know the circumstances, the background, or the context, so even in a well intentioned effort to be fun or casual, you may end up being hurtful or callous.

2. Never forget that the slightest encounter with someone can have a far reaching impact. For good or bad, a single comment can last a long time. With my friend, that one awkward moment gave her the impression that pastor was more interested in being what he thought was probably funny rather than caring. As a result, getting her to try another church is going to be a real challenge.

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

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