We make assumptions when we don’t fully understand a situation. It is a natural reaction to immediately fill in any missing information by making up our own story.
We do this because we like to try to make sense of people and situations. The problem with this is that most of the time our story is incorrect which causes all kinds of complications. The fact is, we don’t know what the truth is unless we ask. As much as we would like to think we know what others are thinking, we simply can’t read minds. Sometimes we think we have the super power to know the reasons why people do the things they do (without asking them), which is pretty presumptuous. Remember, not everyone sees the world the same as you do (shocker, I know, but it is easy to forget).
Need another reason to stop making assumptions? Try turning it around. Do you believe that other people can read your mind? Would you rather someone make up a story (an assumption) about what you are thinking and feeling? Or, would you prefer if they ask you? When you ask instead of assume, you may not always get an answer you like or expect. Still, asking is much better than making up your own story because then you are in the position to make an informed next step.
Asking questions seems like an easy thing to do, so why don’t we do it more often? Why do we sometimes become paralyzed or face social anxiety when it comes time to:
- Contact a client to find out why they haven’t responded to a phone call or e-mail
- Ask a partner if they are satisfied with the way you work together
- Ask a colleague if they still plan to make that introduction for you that they promised
It goes something like this. Let’s say you see a prospective client at a networking event, he sees you too but when you try to approach him for a chat he leaves abruptly. That is all that happened, you don’t know why he had to leave and yet your mind starts making up a story, an assumption. You might think he doesn’t like you or that he isn’t interested in your business. This may or may not be true, but why bother thinking negative thoughts when you don’t really know the reason he left?
In his book, The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz shares insights on the detriments of making assumptions. If you want to know the reason, ask! You may find out that he just went outside to put money in a parking meter, that he had a family emergency, or something else which was not related to you at all.
So how do you do it? When asking questions, do so in a non-judgmental way with the intention to discover the truth. It’s important to stick to the facts and use a neutral tone when asking questions. If you’re still not convinced, here are seven reasons why you and your business, may be suffering because of assumptions. Making assumptions is bad for business because doing so can:
- Cause unnecessary stress
- Waste time and energy
- Create misunderstandings
- Cause you to miss out on great opportunities
- Lower your confidence and create self-doubt
- Lead you to offer the wrong product/service
- Create obstacles that don’t exist
Hopefully it is clear why assumptions are not good for your business and you are willing to stop making them. Making assumptions isn’t good for any relationship which means you can apply this to your personal life as well. After all, you do have a life outside of your business right?
My challenge to you: start paying attention to your thoughts and become aware of when you are making assumptions. Once you’ve got this handled, get into action and ask the right questions. Asking questions is simple, and not always easy. Find the courage to do what may feel difficult and just ask. Ending assumptions is like any skill, it takes practice. The more you do it the easier it will become!