I came close to calamity yesterday. I was doing 30 miles per hour on my bike, rocketing down the 2-lane country road with a strong, dry tailwind pushing me forward. I was with another rider, Bob (name changed to protect the innocent.) We were way behind the pack because I had dropped my gel bottle and had to go back for it. Now Bob was pulling me along as I drafted right behind him.
We were approaching an intersection with a clear view to the left and right. It’s not unusual to cruise through stop signs in the middle of nowhere when all you see is farmland. Bob slowed to about 20 mph and I figured he was just verifying no cars. I was riding in his left blind spot and I pushed to accelerate straight through as we approached the intersection.
That’s when Bob suddenly leaned toward me and started to make a left turn right into me. I shouted “Whoa whoa whoa!!!” He braked at the last second and just missed my back tire as I went straight through the intersection and he turned left behind me. My adrenaline was pumping as I envisioned how ugly that wreck would have been at 20 mph.
Assumptions can be very dangerous, can’t they? If Bob had signaled a left turn before the intersection, it would have been no problem. He assumed I knew where the next turn was (I didn’t.) I could have asked where the next turn was coming, but I just assumed Bob was going straight and I was focused on maintaining my speed.
Like many situations at work or in our personal lives, behavior you predict does not always come true. A little communication can go a long way toward helping you avoid conflict. Even if you think you know what someone else is thinking, it never hurts to ask and make sure.
Thanks for another thoughtful post. It is about a subject that, for some strange reason, I have not learn my lesson even after all of these years. I’m hopeful that this time it will sink in not to assume anything.
Again, thanks for your posts.
Thanks John! We all need reminders from time to time 🙂
Great post. And true for the most part. Unless the person you are asking doesn’t bother to give you a real answer. Then you really don’t have much to work with.
Many years ago,while working a trade show, I witnessed a competitor colleague was having troubles at their trade show booth with their team leader. Arguments broke out right on the showroom floor. One worker was so angry they stormed off. One just stood there and another ran into the bathroom crying.
For the first time, everyone who was in direct competition at the show, suddenly felt sympathy for the rest of the team, as their team leader stood there smug and dictator-like.
The team tried to problem solve. The team asked questions – direct questions to get answers. They did their best to communicate. But the leader never gave them true leadership and expected each employee to assume responsibility for actions they didn’t even know they were doing incorrectly or inefficiently. The worst part, we all came to find out later that the leader wasn’t being open and honest either, due to his pride/ego or inability just build a real team. The truth that surfaced was that he didn’t really know what he was doing. He was ‘faking it til he made it’ – and thus, it was blind in fact leading the blind and no one was leading and those that tried to follow couldn’t really follow under these circumstances.
So no matter how much communication was actually taking place, nothing got resolved. The real core to all this is if people are honest with their communications upfront instead of pretending or playing like they are, you are able to avoid conflict because everyone is being real.
Yes, we do often ASSUME too much and communicate too little.
I ‘m glad you’re okay David.
I didn’t know you were a cyclist David!! Years ago I layed my bike down because I was not sure if this car was going to make their turn in front of me or not. I got some road burns over it. Afterwards the driver said he would never have turned in front of me but I did not know him or that. I just didn’t want to assume anything. I think I broke with only my right hand on the brake and that is what caused me to lay the bike down. [I was pretty young at the time] The outcome wasn’t good but it was certainly better than if he had turned in front of me and I had crashed into him.