“I Thought…I Think…I Assumed…Words of Assumptions are the Mother of All Screw Ups”

As a Senior Search Consultant, I hear it every day. People pressed for time and living in the “I need it now” moment fall prey to the trap of assuming a multitude of things. “I thought…I think…I assumed” creates a scenario where workplace relationships can be fertile ground for misunderstandings. Problems often arise when there isn’t a clear understanding and agreement of the facts. And what causes a lack of shared understanding? Assumptions.
Assumptions cause us to think we have a full understanding of the situation. While many assumptions are necessary to get by every day, when we make assumptions about others’ words, we run a high risk of being wrong. This can lead to significant problems in every facet of life, business, and careers. Lack of verbal communication in today’s world further compounds assumptions. To many of us, over-analyzing every word and wondering “what did they mean?”.
Some of the most common assumptions include:
• Thinking you know someone’s motives
• Making judgments based on stereotypes or simply “I thought…I think…I assumed”.
• We are all susceptible to unconscious assumptions about the world around us. The trick is to remember to check yourself.
In order to avoid the trap of assuming, it is important that you:
1. Get clarification. Ask questions and keep track of the answers.
2. Get it in writing. The best way to remember things and change opinions is the written word, use it to your advantage.
3. Read through any communications. Emails are especially important because we tend to speed read through them. Instead, read and re-read the email to try to ascertain both the meaning and the sentiment (emotions).
4. Be open to listening. Many times, we go into a situation with a preconceived notion that colours our thinking. Always try to keep your ears and your mind open and become an active listener.
The lack of clarity created by assumptions is a barrier to your success.
My suggestion is to always “ASK AND NEVER ASSUME”.
That way instead of basing your opinions and decisions on what you think you may know; you will be guided by what you absolutely do know. That way you will avoid the mother of all screw-ups and tread smartly down the path of future success.

Mark Cohan

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