It all started with a simple english muffin. A misunderstanding and an example for my blog today. But first – I have to go back a few years…
I remember taking classes on the subject “never assume” when I worked for a cable company years ago. The simple concept stuck with me – and I try to be clear in my intentions and words to people. But I am not always successful.
In my own business, I have a written contract stating the obvious, things like payment, make-up lessons and what is expected and have students and parents sign it. I learned the hard way that when it is business – you must never assume that everyone can read your mind and know what your intentions are. Before using a contract – it was very difficult to collect the monthly fee from those who would start and not finish out a 3 month period – which I now require in my contract. I would “assume” they would understand and just somehow know my heart. Yeah right.
In the cable company, where I was office manager – it was important to train our staff to speak clearly and never assume that you had covered an issue – or that others could read their minds – when things like payment and appointment times were in question. Many times we were caught in the “I thought you knew that, sir” – and the “you never said that” game.
At home and with our families – this concept again came into play MANY times – especially with young children. Greg and I thought we had told them something – and they were quick to say, “you never said that” – on many issues regarding school, friends coming over and just about everything else you can name.
It puts me in mind of the Brady Bunch show of the late 60’s and early 70’s – where the eldest son Greg wants to go out and his dad asked him to rake leaves or some chore before he left. Greg didn’t do the chore but went out – got caught and then proceeded to tell his father that he was not very clear about the exact time that he had to do the chore and insisted that he was SURE his dad had meant before bed – and it was still before bed and he had planned all along to do it when he got home. It baffled and confused his dad so much (all teenagers are good at letting us thing that WE are the crazy ones) that he decided to make a deal with Greg and have him live by EXACT words. He warned Greg that living by this method is difficult to live up to – but they made the bargain and it ended up costing Greg in the end of the program as he had to miss something important with his own exact words to do a chore for his dad.
I have tried to use exact words with my own children – but every once in a while – we too would do the same dance that Greg on the Brady Bunch did with his own dad.
I have found that it’s not just limited to children either. Yesterday morning I was making a big breakfast, hash browns, ham, eggs, the works and got the english muffins out of the freezer. Greg was standing over by the toaster making coffee. I placed the muffins on the counter right beside him and said, “do you want english muffins with breakfast?” He mumbled something that sounded like “Sure – Okay” – what I really meant was: “please take the muffins out of the package and place them in the toaster and PUSH DOWN” Greg did not read my mind – or catch my drift and just walked away to another room. A few minutes later when I was dishing up the breakfast on plates – I looked around for the toasted and buttered muffins – and to my surprise – they were STILL in the package where I placed them!
We had a good laugh over that one – and I should know by now that I can never assume that people (Greg) understands even the hints that I drop – when it seems more than reasonable to me.
When was the last time you assumed someone understood what you meant? Were you baffled by their response or lack of one?