Free Falling (Issue 812)

In which we are reminded to be careful about making assumptions when we’re assessing clients’ issues.

An adult of average weight falls about 16 feet in the first second of free-fall. By that calculation, on Christmas Eve, my head traveled from shoulder height to street pavement in less than a half second.

A bit of a surprise, actually. I was walking to Christmas Eve dinner with my family, chatting, focused forward, eager to get to dinner. It was dark, about 6:00 pm. We walked out of our hotel and turned right, down the sidewalk a bit. When it was time to move from the sidewalk to the parking lot, I looked down, quickly, to check the curb. I saw what I thought was sidewalk and I stepped…there… but there was no sidewalk. And I found myself lying on the pavement, shocked to be there. Point of impact –just above my left eye. All in less than a half second.

After dinner, we reconstructed the scene. Due to the angle of the light behind me, the tricks that tri-focal glasses can play on depth perception, and my only fleeting glance down, I’d mis-interpreted light and shadows and … put simply, I’d missed the sidewalk, stepped down on the pavement, and crashed.

Sounds stupid, I’ll admit. In several decades of walking, I’d navigated thousands of curbs and stairs and yet….on that night, I looked too quickly, I assumed too much, and I ended up face down on the pavement. Kinda took the steam out of dinner.

The lesson for me… even ‘though I’ve done it hundreds of times: Confirm, confirm, confirm. Take a moment to confirm what I’m seeing before stepping off sidewalks and stairs. Don’t assume.

Good plan with clients, too. Because we need to be efficient with our time, because we’re doing things we’ve done hundreds of times, we can be tempted to probe too quickly, assume too much, and prescribe too early. And, sometimes we get it wrong and we end up on the street.  Confirm, confirm, confirm.

 

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