Let me take you on a quick virtual trip to Paris. You will travel alongside the 20-year-old me. This experience will not only heighten your awareness around the assumptions you are holding. I will also provide you with practical tips on how to move beyond them.
I went to Paris as a nanny in my early twenties. Leaving my hometown in Germany behind on the train to Paris, I felt excited. I was eager to immerse myself in a different culture and learn to speak French. I was looking forward to eating croissants, listening to accordion music in the streets, discovering the hidden parks and getting to know the Parisians.When I began meeting people in Paris, they always said “je t’appelle” as we parted, which translates into “I will give you a call.” I quite enjoyed their initiative to meet again.
However, not a single person followed through on their promise to call me. I got more and more frustrated with these empty promises. Eventually I realized that I was understanding the Parisians “je t’appelle” based on my assumption that “people do what they say.” This assumption was rooted in my German heritage. As I learned, my assumption didn’t apply in France, at least not in Paris. “Je t’appelle” mouthed by a Parisian merely meant “nice to meet you” or “see you.” It didn’t translate into “I will give you a call.”
Once I was aware of my assumption, I was able to translate “je t’appelle” in culturally appropriate terms. As a result, my stay in Paris became a lot more pleasant.When travelling to or living in other countries we can’t help but notice your own assumptions. However, we always operate based on assumptions whether we are aware of it or not.
Assumptions can be rooted in your cultural heritage, based on your life-experience, upbringing, family situation, social status, generation, character, strengths and values.
When faced with a difficult situation or a conflict, chances are that your assumptions and sometimes the assumptions of at least one other person are at play. Seize the opportunity to take a step back and get curious about your own and other people’s assumptions.
- What am I assuming in this situation? – take notes
- What might I see, if I let go of these assumptions and open myself up to other possibilities? – take notes
- If applicable: What assumptions may others be holding? – take notes
- Given my new insights, what are possible next steps towards a solution? – take notes
- Revisit your notes, choose your next step and most importantly TAKE IT!
Enjoy making decisions that go beyond your assumptions and truly serve you and others.
Julia James, CPCC, PCC, M.Sc. is a multi-lingual certified life coach, award-winning author and international speaker. She helps busy professionals around the world achieve balance in their lives through individual life coaching and workshops. Author of the book, The Mini-Retreat Solution and the audio CD series, Guided Mini-Retreats for Busy People, she provides tools to manage stress effectively and to relax and re-energize quickly. Julia has been featured on Joy TV, CBC News, as well as in The Globe & Mail, Glow Magazine, BC Business Magazine and The Vancouver Observer.