Discerning assessments from facts is a key distinction in our language that is often overlooked. Problems arise when we mix up judgments (assessments) and facts and use them interchangeably.
Let’s look at a few simple statements “Frank is really tall.” or “Frank is 6 feet 6 inches tall.” Which one is a fact or an assessment?
1. An assessments belongs to a person making them, they are based upon their own standards and judgments.*
2. Facts can be true or false and verified by an objective third-party.*
When someone says, “Frank is really tall”, that is their assessment based upon their own standards of what tall is. Maybe tall to someone else is 8 feet, and to them Frank is considered normal height. Do you see the difference?
Assessments are everywhere:
Assessments impact and reinforce our opinions and give us a framework for how we view the world. We must make judgments and assessments all day in order to take action. Assessments also influence our interpretations and actions in the future. By mixing up assessments and calling them facts, we tend to color the world through our own lens and lose sight of what really is. This can lead to actions that cause unintended consequences.
Assessments have great impact on yourself and others:
I see Susan show up late to work a few days in row. From this pattern, I assess that she is lazy and can’t make it on time. Let’s say Susan is applying for a different position and I have input on the decision. Because I now judge her as lazy, I don’t think she is a good fit for the new role.
Did I really know the facts on what made Susan late? Do I really know if she is lazy or maybe had a bad week? Am I taking my assessment and making it a fact that skews my views? The unintended consequence may be that Susan is not hired for the position partly based on my incomplete factual knowledge of her work ethic.
Time to get to work:
There is a lot of rich detail surrounding this topic, but for now see if you can begin to create some awareness around your own assessments. Are they really the truth or fiction? Let me know what you discover.
* Brothers, Chalmers. “Language and the Pursuit of Happiness”, New Possibilities Press, 2005