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While walking up to the woods this frosty morning, I passed numerous skips in the side streets. All were brimming with rubble, bits of wood, plaster and parts of bathroom suites. The building industry looks to have been holding up well in the COVID climate. I have lived through many a house renovation and plan to build an inspiring home on some land bought back in the Spring of 2019, when the world had seemed a very different place. The land had been part of the village’s old orchard before the railway came and transformed the areas into a thriving town. 

One experience has taught me the challenge of building on assumptions: working with a contractor, Victorian housing stock, and an optimistic outlook. Without the right surveys spotting what the building is hiding from sight or failing to create a Contractor agreement with the suitable contingency, there’s all probability that there will be a breakdown in the relationship and at worst an expensive conflict. The problem is not necessarily the hidden issues or the project not going to plan. The watch out is the building on assumptions. That’s where conflict simmers and can prove costly to a relationship and a business. 

Saying yes to taking on tasks, getting involved in an opportunity or perhaps responding to a request without clearing up any assumptions could lead you to a commitment with a barrow full of second-guessing in the mix. 

The village plot we will build our new home on, according to the registry has never been built on before. Thames Water report no main drains crossing the site and the historical growth of apples and damsons is unlikely to have contaminated the land. What we are not going to do is build our foundations without checking the ground. We need to see through the earth. The land registry isn’t always accurate, Thames Water doesn’t know where all their drains are and who knows what went on in the old 60’s garage that currently occupies a corner of the plot. 

Like the surveyors checking our land, no mind-reading, no guessing, we need to see through the earth in our work and personal relationships. Asking more effective questions creates the opportunity in our lives to work through assumptions and clearing up what’s missing to give us a clearer picture of what to expect and the best possible chance of success. Our questions are our surveyors. 

Assumptions are everywhere. They are what’s missing yet buried in a conversation. They can be a missing comparison – too much, a missing noun – they never believe me, missing actions – this annoys me, or I want this quickly. 

Too much to what? Who are they? Doing ‘what’ annoys you? Quickly for what reason? 

It can take courage to ask the more effective questions upfront. We’ve spent more time and money than we initially thought in clearing up assumptions on our land. If we proceeded without clearing up any assumptions and discovered a large mains drain, toxic earth, a buried tank, underground river, or unstable soil, it would significantly impact time and money. 

Relationships built on assumptions is like building your home on shifting sand. 

Here are my top six tips to help you dispel assumptions in your working and personal lives. 

  1. Be authentic – if you see it, hear it or feel it – say it 
  2. Ask permission to ask questions
  3. Intent counts more than technique – focus on helping others succeed, not selling yourself
  4. Keep moving towards the bullseye – don’t bail out until you’ve covered all the ground 
  5. Focus on the answer, not the next questions
  6. Summarise – did I get it right? Did I leave anything out?

If you’d like to foster stronger relationships and understand more about casting assumptions into a skip when you take on new opportunities, then get in touch. I will send you a downloadable resource to support you in building your new relationships on a rock foundation. 

"The confidence I have right now is really valuable; it's a great feeling the sense of direction and purpose I have right now."

Director, Law Practice