The Dangers of Speculation


Jodie Wilson on Flickr

There are two sides to speculation. 

The positive meaning includes taking a known risk in the hope of a greater reward.

We are often called to do this in leadership.

Leading is necessarily about change and change involves risk.

Without necessary change, we will never see greater effectiveness.

So we engage in healthy speculation.

The other side of speculation involves overly thinking a situation to the degree that we guess at the outcome with insufficient evidence.

I recently found myself on this side of speculation. I had received an email from someone that seemed rather ominous. The tone and the wording seemed to indicate that a personal rebuke was coming. I was sure I had done something wrong and was about to be punished in some way. An appointment was set for a few days later. During the in between time I speculated as to what this was truly about. I analyzed many of our prior conversations. I thought through every conceivable mistake I could have made. I began to form a reliable defense for my actions. I thought through how to negate this person’s charges. In the process, I lost sleep, energy–and perspective! I had fallen prey to the dangers of negative speculation. I can think of at least three results that were destructive.

1. Personal Anxiety. For at least 48 hours I worried about this. I read the email over and over again trying to discern its hidden meaning. When ever there was an idle moment my mind rushed back to this impending doom. You know because you have been there too. This thing was eating my lunch.

2. Professional Timidity. As I speculated more and more as to what this might be about I noticed that I became more and more afraid. I did not want to meet with this person. The unknown began to rob me of my work energy which led to self-doubt. Maybe I was not the leader I thought I was. Maybe I am a fraud. Maybe I should quit. Do you see where timidity can go?

3. Character Assassination. Maybe the worse portion of speculation is that I began to build a false case against this person. I began to caricature them as mildly tyrannical. I determined that they always acted this way. I began to diminish them as a leader. It was a case of character assassination. I know that sounds strong, but in my mind, I had made this person out to be something that they were not. I was guessing at their motives and their actions.

So what is the solution? We all get these kinds, of emails from time to time. Or we have conversations that lend themselves to negative speculation. By the grace of God my mental and spiritual posture began to change. I was reminded of some important truths that allowed me to move ahead.

1. Believe the best of people. As I walked through the appointment that day I could not have been more wrong about the nature of our time together. It was a great dialogue over genuine questions. The other person only had my best interest at heart. They never even questioned my performance. They were simply acting out of concern for me and my ability to thrive.

2. Engage. In one sense I had to show up. I could not run and hide. But that doesn’t mean that I would automatically engage with all of me in the conversation. But by faith, I chose to do so. I realized that no matter how negative this might be I was not going to benefit in any way of I did not bring all of myself into the time. So a few hours beforehand I decided that I would come humbly and ready to learn. My spirit lightened immediately. I came into the time with fresh energy, not to defend, but to learn. That is a step toward genuine engagement.

3. Know that your calling is greater than your circumstances. My career is not my life. I have a calling that flows from my relationship with God and who He has made me to be. That will not change regardless of my title. I will live that out to the best of my ability where ever I go. That realization was very freeing. I had nothing at stake because I had nothing to lose. I could only gain from the situation.

I had certainly over thought the situation. I had engaged in speculation to my detriment. The email was a false impostor–mainly because of me. The conversation resulted in a very positive time that recharged and reinvigorated my efforts. Beware of this nemesis.

What are your thoughts?

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