SOARing with CEEK: Session 5, Assertions and Assessments


CEEK continues with our cohort of SOAR leaders. Based on the book, Language and the Pursuit of Leadership Excellence: How Extraordinary Leaders Build Relationships, Shape Culture and Drive Breakthrough Results by Chalmers Brothers and Vinay Kumar, Jennifer Hughes is guiding 12 industry leaders on a journey of self-discovery. Our participants are using the power of language and conversations as primary tools to address concerns and achieve their desired results at work and in their personal lives.

Session 5 on Assertions and Assessments is one of my favorites. So much personal opening can occur when we start to see the number of assessments we make on a regular basis and begin the work of grounding them.

What makes assertions and assessments so important?
One way to differentiate between assertions and assessments is that assertions are objective and assessments are subjective. Assertions can be verified (or not) by someone else. Assessments are personal judgments based on individual standards.

The problem is that most of the time, we state things as if they are 100% true. However, as human beings, we are meaning making machines and we make meaning through our assessments. We make assessments about others, ourselves, situations, or experiences without being aware we are making them and then by treating them as if they are assertions. And, most of the time we make these assessments without grounding them (more on this in just a bit). While there are several differences between assertions and assessments, below shows one differentiation:

“John missed two meetings in a row in June.” This statement is objective, an assertion. Anyone with access to the notes can check the attendance and verify that John was invited to the meetings but did not attend. Assertions are where language is least generative and most descriptive. They help us look to the past and present.

Another example: “John is unreliable.” This assessment has us looking more toward John’s future behavior. Assessments are creative. The assessments we make today influence how we interpret future events.

Why does this matter?
Assertions just are. They are facts that exist and are true or false. Assessments, on the other hand, say more about you than what you’re assessing. They impact how you see yourself and others, as well as the actions you take and how you take them, but they are never the full truth. And, with our assessments, we want to be right. So, we look for the data that will support our assessment. In the example above, what do you think I will notice about John going forward? I will notice every time he is late because that supports my assessment of him being unreliable. What I may not notice is when and how often John is on time!

With this new awareness, you can start to ground your assessments. While there are several steps to grounding your assessments, one of the most important is to reflect and purposefully try to come up with actions or events (assertions) that point to the opposite of your assessment. In the John example, if I make the assessment that John is unreliable, then I must reflect and watch for the times when John is on time and/or early. This one step can create a whole new perspective on the assessments you are making and if they are truly grounded.

Interested in learning more about SOAR and how we listen? The full list of sessions is available on our website and Jennifer will be sharing more about each session here on the blog. Follow this space to learn more and watch out for availability of our next cohort!