By Steven Gaffney

First, we must really understand that our assumptions, opinions, and conclusions are exactly that…OUR assumptions, opinions and conclusion. They stem from our own thoughts and beliefs and they may be wrong. Often we confuse our opinions with facts. Have you ever had someone wrongly assume something about you, and treated it as if it was a fact?

The first key is to understand that OUR assumptions, opinions, and conclusions are not always accurate. Sometimes they are, but we must always remain open to the possibility that they are not.

The second key is to “check” our assumptions, opinions, and conclusions. In other words, investigate them. Investigation opens the lines of communication and encourages honest feedback. This allows for the added benefit of helping to prevent false assumptions, opinions, and conclusions about you and minimizes the possibility of costly confusion. Lastly, it encourages everyone to make decisions based on facts

Here are five questions you can ask to get feedback that will help you “check” your assumptions, opinions and conclusions:

1. In my mind, I am thinking ________. Is that correct?
2. What is your ideal outcome for this project?
3. Is this what you wanted?
4. On a scale of 1 to 10, how well are we doing? What would make it a 10?
5. How could we work more effectively with each other?

Remember, questions are the key, and whether you use these specific questions or, a variation of them, use them frequently to “check in” and clarify. By basing your decisions on facts, you will make your job easier and more enjoyable and will create the work environment you desire and deserve.

Third, offer your opinions and conclusions with the true belief you might be wrong. But the key is you must believe it. If you just pretend that you may be wrong, while in your heart you know you are right, it will not work. For example, can’t you tell when someone is mad at you even though they say they are not? Or how about when someone says, “I am not blaming you” even though they are. This is because most of us are lousy actors and people see right though this charade. This is why some people, who only learn to say the right words, often come across as insincere. It is because they haven’t changed what they truly believe.

As proven in my communication seminar, “The Fish Isn’t Sick…The Water’s Dirty”, we are often wrong about our assumptions, opinions and conclusions. Sometimes it just doesn’t look that way because once we have an opinion we tend to look for evidence that is consistent with our opinion. We see what we want to see and believe what we want to believe. For example, once we label someone as difficult to deal with, that is all we can see. If they compliment us, we assume that they must be up to something. This is why many people who are labeled as a bad performer or difficult to deal with find it very hard to change people’s opinions.

Have you ever had someone rightly accuse you of something, but because of his or her tone, you denied it? When we are open to the possibility that we may be wrong, we see things differently that we otherwise may have missed. We say things differently. We frame the conversation from an entirely different perspective. After all, even when what we think is actually correct, people will be more accepting when we say it with the sincere belief that we might be wrong.

Consider this: with whom would you rather work? Someone who thinks they are right all the time or someone who is sincerely open to the possibility that they may be wrong. Most of us don’t like being around people who are self-righteous—even if they have a point. Instead, we like to be around people who are open to the possibility that they may be wrong.

The fourth key: to effectively conveying assumptions, opinions, and conclusions that are difficult to say, is to suggest one thing that could have been done differently. The more responsibility taken for things that could have been done differently, the less it sends a message of blame. Additionally, taking responsibility will most likely encourage the other person to think of things he or she could have done as well. And not blaming allows the other person to have an opportunity to consider the point differently… without feeling the need to get defensive.

So here is how it might sound:
“I notice the report came in at 5:00 rather than 3:00. I have all kinds of ideas going on in my head about this. For example, I am thinking that you have too much on your plate. Bottom line is that I am stressed. One thing I could have done differently is bring this up when it first happened and not immediately placed the blame on you.”

It is a lot easier to come up with a solution when there is not a need to come up with an excuse. This simple strategy will save you lots of time and aggravation and help you to get the results you desire.

Good Luck and let me know if you get stuck in conveying these difficult opinions, assumptions, and conclusions. I will help you. Just contact my office at 703 241 7796 or email me at If you find this article helpful, please feel free to share with others in your work and home life.

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