We all have heard the saying … “never assume because you make an ass out of you and me…” but this is easier said than done. Too often we do assume. We assume we have heard correctly and jump in to answer the question we think we heard and not the one that was asked.
We assume that we can do the task that was set without clarifying or checking to see that we have all the tools required. We assume when we agree to a suggestion or procedure that we know what is going to happen or how it is going to proceed. We assume that what we say is exactly what the other person hears and understands.
All through life there are a many events / incidents that could be avoided if we took care to clarify, question and not assume. Writing here this minute I can think of at least 4 occasions in the past few months where assumptions have caused stress, loss of time, and a misunderstanding. I am sure if you stop and think you can recall just as many, if not more.
For instance how many conversations have you had like this:
“Can you do a presentation at tomorrow’s meeting?”
You think “okay the last meeting I attended there were 10 people in the boardroom – I can handle that and say ‘Yes that’s fine.’” You assumed that what happened last time will be what will happen this time. The other person assumed you were up to date on what was coming up at the next meeting. You arrive to speak only to find you are presenting to 30 people including some top management. Utilising basic communication skills of checking and clarifying would have avoided a potentially embarrassing and stressful situation.
Underlying many incidents of assumption is miscommunication. Incidents where we did not clarify or question, where what we thought what we said was exactly what the other person heard or what we heard was what the other person actually meant to say.
A few seconds more in the conversation where we took the time to clarify, question, and check can prevent this from happening.
So next time, when you think you know what the person means or when you think you know what the task is or when you think you are both speaking/acting/ responding from the same level playing field, don’t assume! Instead utilise basic communication skills – check, clarify, and question.