You are in a meeting. You are sharing details on a project you are working on that others in the room will need to takeover. Someone in the meeting assumes what resources will be on hand. They go away and start working on the project.
What’s wrong with this scenario? If you guessed making assumptions, then you’re correct. Mind-reading in business is detrimental and can waste time, so we look at a few tips on how you can avoid it and improve communication.
Why it’s important not to make assumptions
How easy is it to make an assumption? We’ve all done it. Assuming what the other person is thinking without asking to clarify. Mind-reading is very common and even natural, but it can be an unhealthy habit when it comes to communication – especially in the workplace.
No two assumptions are the same, as they evolve from your past experiences and your current beliefs. They can be about anything, but in business, they are particularly dangerous. Why?
- They can cause unnecessary stress when a simple question clarifies the problem.
- Mind reading can create misunderstandings and cause conflict.
- Assuming what others are thinking can also cause you to miss out on great opportunities.
If you need more convincing that assumptions are bad for business, ask yourself how you would feel in the example above. The outcome saw an entire project derailed because they assumed instead of asking you about the budget and resources.
So now we know mind-reading is bad for business, how can we avoid it?
Tips to avoid making assumptions in business
Accept your bias – It may be hard to hear, but you don’t know everything. No one does. Once you accept that there is plenty more to learn in life, you’ll realise how important it is to fill in any gaps with information from others.
Ask questions and ask them again – Even if you are 100% certain about what someone is telling you, always clarify with follow-up questions. The more information, the less likely you’ll misunderstand. Never be afraid to ask a question, either, as it is better to be clear and get things right.
Ask people if they understand you – Taking responsibility for your part in any communication is important. Ask people to explain what you have just told them to see if they have interpreted the information the way you intended. The practice will help improve your communication too and avoid any potential misunderstandings on your end.
Pause and reflect – If someone’s comment has caused a reaction, like a quick heart-beat or an inner rage, pause and reflect as you’re likely assuming the wrong intention of it.
Assume positive intentions – We’re all going to assume; it’s what we do. But if you can assume positively, like your co-workers or employees are working to the best of their ability, it will have a better outcome.