I am on a plane travelling to Melbourne. We are sitting on the tarmac. The plane has pulled back and just as you think that we are about to get going the captain comes on over the speaker and says that due to some unforeseen circumstances we have to go back to the airport.
We are asked to stay in our seats with our seatbelts on. We are all obedient and continue to play on our phones whilst the flight staff do whatever they have to do.
Then suddenly three police officers walk up the aisle of the plane.
Well, this is highly entertaining. So we all distract ourselves from our phones to get a look at what is happening at the back of the plane.
Next minute, they are walking a fairly good looking, clean cut boy of about 22 down the aisle and off the plane.
Well, we all look at each other and breathe a sigh of relief that we have been saved from this 20 something year old misfit. The captain makes some light hearted joke about the little issue now being resolved and we are on our way. No-one tells us why this young man has been escorted from the plane.
My brain goes into overdrive. What has he done? Was he really a baddie? Is there another reason why the police would have to escort him from the plane.
Then someone behind me says they overheard the flight attendants saying that “he” (again I assume the baddie who was taken off the plane) was shooting up something illegal before we took off. He had asked to use the bathroom before we took off. Apparently his eyes were like “golf balls”.
Titbits of information; lots of gossip. You can imagine that nearly everyone on that flight will go and talk about that young man to someone they know when they get off the plane.
I don’t know why that young man was escorted from the plane. But I do know that my mind went into overdrive creating lots of assumptions about his circumstances.
Three police officers entering a plane before take off is an unusual and unsettling experience. It makes you wonder whether we were all at risk of some harm if we had flown with this gentleman all the way to Melbourne.
Where we don’t know the facts we fill the gap with assumptions. We can’t help ourselves. We need to know stuff, to know what is going on. It makes us feel safe.
We then talk about our assumptions a lot. Suddenly they feel like the truth, despite the fact that we know nothing more than three police officers got on our plane and escorted a young man off.
If you want your team to feel secure; to speak truths and not assumptions then tell them what is going on. Otherwise they will come up with their own truth based on assumptions and they will talk about those assumptions; a lot.