It was a normal Saturday morning in Sanford, my hometown, about 10 years ago. I stepped into the pet store on 17-92 to buy crickets for my son's leopard gecko. After waving the clerk down and asking for the crickets, I stepped up to the cash register to wait for the dozen little crawlers.

I heard a sound behind the counter as I approached it and found a woman sitting on a five-gallon bucket, eating a sandwich. She didn't notice me and was eating her sub as if it were alive and trying to get away. I coughed in an effort to announce my presence. She looked up. It felt a little awkward, as she took about 12 seconds to swallow her kill.

I noticed three ultrasound pictures on the cash register, displaying this woman's unborn baby. Clearly, she was proud, as an expectant mother would be.

"Boy, I was really hungry," she said quietly.

"Sure. Hey, I get it; you're eating for two!"

Her awkward smirk quickly turned to disdain as she looked up with eyes of contempt. "What?"

That pet store got really hot, really fast. In my futile attempt to recover, I said, "Well, I mean, this is your baby, right?" as I helplessly pointed to the ultrasound pics beside me.

"No. It's the owner's baby. I'm not pregnant."

"Wow. OK. Well the ... I'm, I'm sorry. I'll just pay for these [crickets] now," was about all I could utter.

It takes a lot to embarrass me. But that did the job. I'll never forget those moments as long as I live. But that experience taught me a few important lessons: 

Always seek to understand first. Test your assumptions; don't act on them. I could have made sure my assumption was correct first; but instead, I drew a conclusion based on my assumption and then acted on it prematurely.

Premature assumptions are generally dangerous. We all draw conclusions that we act on prematurely, both in life and business. That's dangerous. It also erodes trust and thus erodes a healthy culture.

Seek to build trust. Healthy communication builds trust and allows you to draw accurate conclusions. When you seek to understand, you will grow trust and improve the culture around you.

A strong culture communicates well.

Here are a few Scriptures to meditate on regarding this:

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger" (James 1:19).

"A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart" (Prov. 18:2).

Marcos Perez is executive vice president and publisher of Charisma House at Charisma Media. He and his wife, Kathy, have five children.

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