What art teaches us about assumptions

I’ll miss East London for its street art. This one caught my attention this weekend:


What do you think this person is experiencing?

My wife and I certainly had quite different assumptions.

I’d love to ask the artist what he had in mind, but the point here is that if we were to all tell a story, I reckon all our stories would be quite different, and always coloured by our own projections.

It is this “colouring in”, and interpreting what someone says through our own lense, that happens all the time when we listen to our clients in the coaching room, and it’s also what’s happening when we listen to family, friends and co-workers:

We make assumptions based on our own frame of reference.

A good coach “brackets” their assumptions and starts asking questions – and a good friend would too, I’d say.

Because all too often, our interpretations of what’s going on don’t help, at all. While listening and helping someone to make sense of their experience does help, and a lot.

Of course there are times when we definitely benefit from making some quick assumptions in order to be able to act quickly. The wisdom lies in deciding when to bracket our assumptions and when to act on them.

So next time you notice you’re creating a narrative in your head, ask yourself: “How much of myself is in this story? And might there be a different way to interpret what’s going on here?” Then get curious! 🙂

I’ll leave you with that. And I salute art – and this artist* in particular – for making us think.


*The artist is David Speed (Art Director of Graffiti Life) and you can see a nice selection of his East London work here.

PS: In the 1930s Henry Murray and Christiana Morgan developed a series of intentionally ambiguous paintings as part of Harvard’s Thematic Apperception Test. IMHO we could throw in some better art these days, but it’s the same concept and fun to check your assumptions. Have a look at some of the examples here or do an item of the test here.

New Content

Big thanks to the good folks at Animas Centre for Coaching, for getting me Prof. Windy Dryden on the Coaching Uncaged podcast, where we talked about Single Session Coaching and One-at-a-time Coaching.

The debate on whether best to work session-by-session or in the form of programmes, is an ongoing one for coaches. It seems though that most have accepted the advice from marketers and sales experts that offering packages of sessions are essential when running a coaching business.

Some good discussion on the question of IF it’s a good idea on another podcast. In this one I talk to Windy, the (co-)author and editor of 167 books (one of which about this very topic) about his approach to this way of working, and why it’s a good idea to consider if it may be right for you and your clients to work one session at a time.

Coaching Lab 

Windy also kindly agreed to showcase his approach in the Coaching Lab in November 2022, so if you’d like to see single-session coaching in action, you can sign up as a VIP member to get access to the recording of this demonstration.


And that’s it!

As always, if any of this resonates, make it swing! I’d love to hear from you 🙂

With Love