“Your assumptions are the windows on the world. Scrub them off once in a while or the light won’t come in.”
-Isaac Asimov

Assumptions can lead to faulty outcomes. Take the famous Monty Hall Problem, for example. It demonstrates that the assumption most contestants in that famous game show made when offered a choice of doors, hoping to win a car, was wrong.

If you make assumptions in business communications, chances are they won’t be responsible for your failure to win a new car. However, they definitely can damage your chances of success with clients, or prospective clients. I see it all too often– business letters and emails that are supposed to entice new clientele. But, they’re written without demonstrating any real knowledge of that client’s business concerns. In many instances, this approach stems from a lack of research and preparation. And sometimes it stems from our biases.

I like what Jeremy Cummings has to say about bias in a post at The Medium, that it “leads us to believe we understand something when we may be working with a distorted or incomplete picture.” He also observes that poor communication sometimes is a result of two people operating from two different sets of assumptions. When you hear those two people argue, as a third party you may realize that actually, they agree. But because they assume they disagree the conflict escalates. (We’ve probably all experienced that around a family dinner table at some point!)

So, it’s important to try not to make assumptions about who you are communicating with. Being open minded is key. So is taking time to figure out your audience’s needs, interests, etc. If you do, you’ll have a much better chance of advancing your business goals.

This is not to say that it’s easy to identify your own biases. However, this checklist at Business Management Daily may help. I’ve a feeling you’ll recognize yourself as holding at least one of these “eight biases that hurt communication.” I know I did!

Four Ways to Avoid Making Assumptions

Here are four of my own recommendations that may help you to avoid making assumptions in your business communications:

1. Be Informed
Do your research to gain an understanding of who it is you are trying to communicate with. Ask yourself if you truly have a grasp of that person’s business needs.

2. Be Specific
Vague information is responsible for an equally vague reception of information. Make sure you are specific in your business communications. The words you choose matter.

3. Be Meaningful
Jargon may make sense in a certain work or industry culture. But, you can never assume that everyone knows and understands the same jargon. (For that matter, you can never assume that even if someone does understand the jargon, he or she will appreciate that form of communication.)

4. Be Understanding
Always remember that there may be cultural differences that pose challenges. In many parts of the world the workforce is multicultural and it includes ESL learners. So it pays to choose your words carefully, and to be aware of your own body language.

I think it’s safe to say we all make assumptions. Equally true, we all have the ability to pause, before we jump to conclusions, and ask ourselves, “How do I know this?” If you answer that question honestly and you realize you haven’t got any actual evidence or information to support your conclusion — you may be making a false assumption. Yes, it takes a little more mental and emotional effort to go through this exercise. On the other hand, which would you rather do: Make an assumption that leads you nowhere, or win the car behind door number three?

Need to make sure that you’re not making assumptions in your business communication and reaching more clients? Contact me at the Language Lab and I’ll work with you to master the skill of well crafted writing and presenting.

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