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A Principle That Changes Every Relationship

It’s a simple principle, but oh so important to remember.

It’s a principle true in leadership and life.

When you don’t remember it you fail to get the results you expect as a leader and people are frustrated with your leadership.

But the same is true in so many other relationships.

Here’s the principle. Write this one down.

People only know what they know.

It’s unfair to hold an employee accountable for something they never knew.

You can’t expect your spouse to remember things you never told him or her.

It’s hard to be disappointed no one comforted you in your pain if they didn’t know you were hurting.

Your child can’t live up to a standard you never set.

People only know what they know.

And the solution is simple. If you want them to know -‘don’t assume they do -‘tell them.

Who are you holding to an expectation you’ve never shared with them?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Sara Kaderly says:

    Therefore, if the other has not encountered the same experiences, successes, failures, people, or places as oneself, it is incorrect to assume they lack common sense, as common sense is not universal. Instead, it “rests in the eye of the beholder” (p64). Our society today represents more of a patchwork quilt, according to the authors. “From this perspective, the metaphor of a patchwork quilt unites many small understandings of common sense, many ‘petite localities’ or places of agreed-upon goods” (p65) All is not lost, however. The loss of common sense, invites learning of self, others and contexts (p65). You mention the following principal as being true in both leadership and life: “People don’t know what they don’t know”. As alluded to in your post, learning, at both speaker and audience levels, is a major aspect of this principle.

    Sara Kaderly

  • Sara Kaderly says:

    This is a simple, but poignant post. This reminds me of a statement found in my reading for the week from the book Communication Ethics Literacy: “Common sense is not innate, nor is it common” (Arnett et al, 2009, p63). Frequently, people rattle off judgments on others, saying things like: “How can you not know that? It is common sense!” or “I can’t believe he doesn’t know how to use a smart phone. It is just common sense these days.” These types of declarations are inaccurate using the previously mentioned statement. One cannot assume that the other shares the same standpoint since “common sense is a by-product of what we know and what we practice” (p63).

  • One of my professors during my college days repeatedly tells — "When you assume something, you are making 'ass' of 'u' and 'me'. " Though I it sounded harsh, I can understand the dangers when we assume something and do not communicate matters properly to others.

  • And then keep telling them and keep telling them and keep telling them.
    And then tell them some more.