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Great Leaders Challenge Their Assumptions

Written by: Galit Cohen, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Not everyone thinks the same way you do.

We all see things through the lens of our own life experiences.

Therefore, it's critical to challenge your assumptions about other people's behavior.

The problem is that assumptions are often invisible and they steer our minds without us realizing it.

We get into trouble when we don’t challenge our assumptions and instead act like they’re an absolute truth.

I’ve seen workplace relationships, friendships, and even romantic relationships deteriorate because of this.

Here are a few example assumptions about behavior that could benefit from being challenged.

Example 1

Assumption: I was expecting Nora to have entered the data already. I know she thinks it's boring, which is why she hasn’t done it yet.

Reality: Nora was unaware she was expected to enter the data. There was no clear communication about it.

Example 2

Assumption: Eric gives away all his work to his team because he’s lazy.

Reality: Eric lacks confidence in his own abilities.

Example 3

Example: Last time I tried to talk to Beatrice about using my graphic design skills on this project, she didn’t even look up from her computer. She doesn’t care what I have to say.

Reality: Beatrice was distracted rebooking her husband’s ticket to New York because he called her in a frenzy that he booked the wrong date, right before the meeting.

Assumptions motivate our actions, which is why if we want better relationships and more effective work, we need to bring awareness to them.

In example 1, if you communicate as though your assumption is 100% truth, and approach your subordinate Nora, with a frustrated attitude

She may either be frustrated back like she’s being blamed, and conflict may arise.

Instead, approach her with a question such as “Hey just wanted to check in about the data entry, are we on the same page that you’re going to do it by X date.”

In example 2, if you approach Eric, attempting to reprimand him, rather than trying to figure out what’s going on with him, you may lose a crucial opportunity for building trust and loyalty.

Imagine the difference between “Eric it doesn’t seem like you’re interested in doing any of this work” and “Eric, your skill set would be perfect for X. Would you be up for taking this on by yourself?”

“Beatrice, is this still a good time? You seem a little distracted”

Challenging our assumptions starts with bringing greater awareness to our thoughts.

Next time you’re upset with your colleague for not entering data, ask yourself if there could be any other explanation for their actions (or lack thereof). Did you clearly communicate what the expectation was? Is this part of their usual role?

Go into a conversation open to hearing their perspective rather than leading with an assumption about why you think they acted the way they did.

Assumptions are as instinctual as breathing and are a natural part of decision-making. So don’t feel bad about making them. This article is just a reminder that not everything that pops into your mind is an absolute truth.

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Galit Cohen, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Galit F. Cohen is a leadership coach specializing in evolving Emotional Intelligence. Galit brings a unique perspective from growing up in a multicultural household, which provided her with a trifocal lens to examine her relationship with others.

Galit is a fierce advocate for positive self-talk and passionate about empowering others to overcome self-doubt. She believes there is something magical about each person and loves helping others find that magic within themselves.

Galit holds a master's degree in Organization Development and Leadership and bachelors degree in Communication and International Studies. She has been featured in Ariana Huffington's Thrive Global and Authority Magazine.



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