🫤 The Trap of Over Generalizing – “Everyone” and “Always”

Have you ever heard statements like ‘Everybody does it’ or ‘We always do it this way’?

These sweeping statements might sound trivial but can cause confusion, assumptions, and tension that such sweeping statements generate.

But there’s a way out of this linguistic trap.

By understanding universal statements and learning how to respond to them, you can promote clear communication, foster trust, and drive collaboration.

Usually, universal statements involve the use of words such as “always,” “never,” “again,” “so,” “every time,” and “everyone.”

It might sound like the development team NEVER finishes on time.

Or, the sales team ALWAYS overpromises.

Unfortunately, this habit of generalizing and speaking for others has become all too common.

The key issue is a lack of precision and empathy in communication.

  • Overgeneralizing: Turning individual or specific cases into broad and sweeping declarations.
  • Ignoring Nuance: Failing to recognize the diversity of opinions and experiences.
  • Creating Misunderstandings: Leading to confusion, mistrust, or misaligned actions.

Fortunately, there’s a solution.

Here are a few things you can do, starting today, to help.

📌 Recognize Universal Statements. 

Understand what these statements look like (see above) and why they can be harmful.

Recognizing them is the first step to combating them.

📈 Use Data to Communicate Accurately. 

When you make a claim, back it up with data or specific examples.

Instead of saying, ‘the sales team ALWAYS over promises’ –

Consider, ‘In the last six months, we’ve had to deal with 4 situations where three members of the sales team promised more than we could deliver.’

This fosters transparency and trust.

🔍 Clarify When You Hear Universal Statements. 

If you hear someone using these statements, kindly ask for clarification.

For example, “I heard you say that everyone is unhappy about the decision. Can we discuss this further?”

Building the Bench: Eliminating confusion is key to leadership development.

It’s not just about precision in language; it’s about building a culture of respect, empathy, and analytical thinking. 

Leaders who guide their teams away from these overgeneralizations are encouraging a more profound connection with the truth, acknowledging the diversity of individual experiences, and promoting a more cohesive and honest communication environment.

By recognizing and acting against universal statements, leaders are effectively nurturing a generation of thinkers, collaborators, and leaders who see beyond the surface, appreciate the nuances, and strive for authentic communication.

It is about building leaders who not only lead with integrity but also foster integrity in those they lead.

So, before we wrap up, let’s talk about an often-overlooked aspect that can magnify the impact of addressing overgeneralizations: questioning the assumptions behind them. This is important for leaders who are developing leaders.

🤔 Question Assumptions Behind Universal Statements.

Often, overgeneralizing stems from unexamined assumptions that get deeply ingrained in the team or organizational culture.

For example, the notion that “innovation only comes from the top” might be an unspoken belief that stifles creativity among junior team members.

When you hear a universal statement, use it as an opportunity to explore the assumptions behind it.

Ask questions like, “What makes us think that the development team never finishes on time? Have we considered all the factors that contribute to this perception?”

This approach will encourage deeper reflection and more nuanced understanding, thereby strengthening decision-making skills among team members.

Summary:

Universal statements may seem innocuous but can cause real issues in communication and collaboration.

By recognizing them, using precise language, and actively seeking clarification, you can create a more open, honest, and effective communication environment.

And that’s a win all around. 🏆

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