“Wolf! Wolf!!” The boy cried out.
If you recall the story of the boy who cried wolf, it is a popular Aesop fable about a young shepherd boy. He would prank the villagers, making it look like a wolf was approaching when there was none.
In this story, the boy is responsible for tending to the village’s flock of sheep. One day, the boy wanted to play a trick on the villagers, because he was terribly bored. So, the boy decides to shout “wolf! wolf!” causing the villagers to come running to save him and the sheep from the wolf. When they arrive, they find no wolf and the boy just laughs at them.
The boy repeats this trick multiple times, each time causing the villagers to drop what they are doing and rush to his aid. Eventually, a real wolf does appear and the boy cries out for help, but the villagers do not believe him and do not come to his aid, assuming it is just another one of his tricks. As a result, the wolf attacks and kills many of the sheep.
While the moral of the story does point out the grave consequences of lying or playing toxic pranks, it also talks about ‘Assumptions’. The boy saw once that the villagers believed him whenever he shouted out ‘Wolf’ and they would run to either help him or run away to save themselves. He kept assuming that every time their reaction would be the same. But as irony eventually plays its part, when a wolf came for real, the villagers assumed that the boy was playing yet another prank on them. This time they never came rushing to his aid, ignored him, and we all know the result.
To repeatedly assume the same outcome of a consistent event can make an ‘Ass’ of ‘U’ & ‘Me’.
People often make assumptions based on their past experiences in life because they use their previous experiences as reference points for understanding and interpreting new situations. Our past experiences shape our beliefs, values, and expectations, and influence how we perceive and respond to new situations.
For example, if someone has had negative experiences with authority figures in the past, they may assume that all authority figures are untrustworthy or abusive. Or, if someone has had positive experiences with a particular meal at a restaurant, they may assume that every time they will have similar levels of positive experience. One thing is common which is that the assumptions are based on past experiences and can influence our behavior and decision-making in the present.
This can happen to anyone, including leaders and that can be disastrous.
The assumptions can create blindspots that are harmful to the leader and the people they lead. This is much like the sheep in the story who suffered the consequences of the shepherd boy’s lies and false assumptions.
Assumptions can result from cognitive biases, which are mental shortcuts or patterns of thinking that can lead to errors in judgment.
For example, confirmation bias is a tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs and ignore information that contradicts them. This also can lead to assumptions that are not based on a full and accurate understanding of a situation.
In the majority of cases, we make assumptions based on our past experiences because they provide a framework for understanding the world around us. However, it is important to be aware of the potential biases and limitations of our assumptions and to seek out additional information and perspectives to gain a more complete understanding of a situation.
Adopting the Ground of Neutrality
Therefore, it is essential to adopt the Ground of Neutrality, so we can see things objectively and listen to our inner voice. It’s a point where a leader can transcend any biases or assumptions and take action based on an objective point of view.
And you can do this by strengthening your inner voice. You can make it stronger than the voice of assumption by enhancing your SiQ or Spiritual Quotient. And in doing so, you can make important leadership decisions based on the Grounds of Neutrality.
The key lies in improving your FIT score by:
● Increasing the (F)requency of seeing things differently rather than from the same angle
● Increasing the (I)ntensity of keeping an open mind
● Enhancing the (T)enacity to listen to new perspectives
Therefore, when you choose to listen rather than stubbornly assume things, you are choosing to listen to your inner voice.
This short verse by Claudia Gray rightly expresses what assuming looks like when one wears it without hesitation:
It’s not the things you don’t know that trip you up.
It’s the things you think you know, but you don’t.
You fail to ask a certain question because you believe you know the answer.
Separating your information from your assumptions can be very tricky business.