Over various Top Tips emails occasionally I’ve mentioned my friend Keith. He’s a lively soul and young at heart. Always up for an event, a couple of beers or three and the first to say yes to a rowdy gig.
We also enjoy riding mountain bikes in the Surrey Hills. He’s the one who actually knows where we’re going and how to get there. And back.
Out Here In The Fields
It doesn’t matter where we end up, Keith always knows precisely where we are. I suspect he has some sort of X-Men like magnetic field mapping system going on. For someone like me who gets lost going down a slide this is an envy inducing skill. I just follow.
As well as having the internal navigational qualities of a Manx Shearwater he’s also fitter and faster than me by quite a distance. This is annoying. On a number of levels.
We often find ourselves cycling up a sheer vertical climb like the off road direct line up Box Hill. While I struggle manfully at a snail’s pace he shoots off ahead. He’s good at going up hills.
Many has been the time when he’s left a trail of demeaning messages with willing day walkers heading down towards me.
“Excuse me, are you called Iain?”
When this occurs I know very well what’s coming but what else can I do other than be polite?
“Yes. I’m Iain.”
“Keith says can you get a wriggle on please. His legs are stiffening up from all the waiting at the top.”
Ha ha. Very funny. Every time.
Talking 'Bout My Generation
What makes this worse is that Keith is nearly two decades my senior. I like to think this says nothing about my waning athleticism and instead pretend that Keith has incredible fitness levels. More than you’d expect for a chap of his advancing years. Young at heart right?
However, we found out the other day that not everyone recognises Keith’s age defying awesomeness.
We discovered that there are individuals out there who actually think Keith might . . . whisper it . . . need assistance.
We’ve learned that some people just look at Keith’s age and make a judgement based on that.
And we learned this in the most hilarious way.
I'll Get All My Papers And Smile at The Sky
Currently, Keith is doing some business up in Stamford and has had cause to deal with one of the country’s ever so popular energy suppliers. During a communication thread Keith needed to email an attachment to them.
He was travelling at the time and so had to send it over a patchy 3G connection.
It didn’t reach the destination so he gave it another go.
Again the connection was bad and again the attachment failed to go.
He gave up for the time being and decided to try again when the coverage was better or he had a decent wifi connection.
This is where we meet Jake, the kind hearted and well meaning assistant from Bulb Energy.
Now, sometimes it’s quite difficult not to make assumptions about certain things. It's hard, for example, to not make assumptions about people of a certain age and their ability to employ modern technology to its full capacity. Well, it was hard for Jake.
Jake made an assumption that the reason Keith’s email attachment failed is because Keith is ancient and owns a steam powered phone.
That's not true but already knowing a small handful of details about Keith, including his date of birth, that’s the assumption Jake made.
He assumed Keith was struggling with the high tech task. Looking to quickly solve this ‘problem’ and help the older generation here’s how Jake gently suggested the technological divide might be bridged.
I’m still crying with laughter. Thank you Jake.
Imagine A Man
Today’s Top Tip is to assume less. My late father in law always said that to assume makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’. It’s a good line to remember.
We had a really good laugh at that message and (after a while) Keith was fine with it, but lesser mortals could easily have taken umbrage.
And they’d have been quite within their rights at being offended. After all, Jake is suggesting that Keith doesn’t have the capability and requires outside assistance.
It’s a bit of fun to use this as an example of not leaping to conclusions but the tip is an important one. We probably need to find out a bit more before offering advice.
Advice that can be at the least ignorant and at worst off cause someone to feel resentful, upset, or annoyed. Diving straight in suggesting that a “family member lend you a hand” is making far too much of an assumption.
It's poor communication.
Jake would have been better off asking something like “Is there anything I can do to help?” and he’d have swiftly learned that it was just a glitchy connection.
Or if Keith was actually in need at that point, Jake would have been able to learn this and then ask what help would be appropriate. And then offer a more concrete and suitable solution or assistance.
Stop Assuming And Ask Questions
So take a few moments to reflect and consider where it is that you make too many assumptions. (Notice how I’m assuming you do!?)
And if you do find an area where you leap to conclusions a little too readily, step back and ask yourself 'what impact does this have?'
What impact could it have? Does it help or hinder communication? How could you approach things differently?
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