Assumptions. We all make them. It’s natural.

To assume is to take something for granted. ( I know, I know, you’re thinking about Oscar Wilde’s maxim– When you assume you make an ass out of you and me… and it’s correct-in a pithy way.)

Some other examples…

I assume the stop lights will work… my dentist will show up for my appointment… Starbucks will have coffee ready… the bank I’ve been banking with for years will cash my checks… my husband will be happy to see me (fingers crossed).

Like those examples demonstrate, assumptions can be reasonable… yet, sometimes incorrect. Systems malfunction and stop lights need repair, banks administer new policies, dentists have emergencies too. Starbucks and my husband… a pretty safe bet.


What about the incorrect assumptions you knowingly and unknowingly use which botch up communication, understanding, efficiency and even lose customers/clients?

In this article…

I’ll identify tools and tweaks for checking out your assumptions in your work life (personal life too) so that bringing your best is running over with good, accurate, up-to-date information, not taking others or something else for granted.

Let’s consider…

1. Incorrect assumptions are easily made, with no malice intended. Often they are a reflection of what we expect or have known in the past.

Here’s a personal favorite professional example of making an incorrect assumption and being surprised—in a good way… and learning a lot…

It was our initial session. She was in her mid-50’s.

She responded to some usual getting acquainted questions and we both shared an appreciation for journaling and writing. Her writing has been published.

I remember feeling a special connection with her immediately. She made it easy or somehow together the alliance necessary to say important things occurred.

She came to talk about her concerns with an adult daughter who was diagnosed with a serious mental illness years ago. She called for an appointment following another police intervention to keep her daughter safe… in the hospital again, but what’s next?

She talked. I listened. We grieved the limitations of our control as parents, professionals and community. We identified resources and support. She talked more.

At the end of our last session she presented me with a thick, paperback book.

Immediately, I thanked her. I love books. She and I shared at the first appointment our appreciation for writing.

And then I noticed.

She was the author… her name largely displayed in glimmering gold on the cover. It was one of several books she has written, published by a prominent New York City publisher.

I assumed she had gotten an article published in a magazine, a success by itself.

A book! A published author of several books.

I was awed…a fun, juicy read too! 

I have the book next to me as I write this and to this day cherish her gift and the inscription, so generous and kind.

That was 13 years ago. I send both her daughter and her my goodwill today.

See? Take a new look at what you have always known or thought. You could be pleasantly surprised!

2. Assumptions contribute to underestimating the other’s genius.

I’m grateful when my assumptions are corrected, revised or challenged. I am learning all the time!

My former client’s example above is a gift that keeps on giving because I’m reminded that there is so much more to any person than I realize.

Now that’s pure joy I take to work everyday. No wonder I love my work.

And so, be open to being challenged, or challenge. It’s an opportunity to experience genius.


3. Giving and receiving instruction assumptions are problematic when specific information isn’t provided or requested.

You give the instruction to research companies which provide liability coverage for your business and your virtual assistant provides names and numbers without any other supporting details like websites, coverage amounts, pricing, etc. You realize a list of specific items would have saved you frustration.

You receive an instruction to write-up a typical offer to a potential client. You provide an outline which is missing the script desired. You realize you could have clarified the instruction and gotten more details about the task.

An extra step to get more information will save you time in the end.

4. Email assumptions are common and a source of misunderstanding or mounting irritation.

Just because you sent an email and you haven’t received a response yet doesn’t mean the person is ignoring your news. It may be hanging out in the junk folder. The receiver may be thinking about your idea or request and bombarded with emails just like yours.

Pick up the phone and call or include a message to notify you that you got the email. Give an end date for responding.

Build in some easy follow-up steps and avoid the irritation.

5. Great client assumptions need to be checked out regularly to keep the clients great… and keep getting great clients!

Just because clients have been positive about your product/services, doesn’t mean it’s safe to assume they will always be positive.

Be both efficient and effective with a follow-up contact to stay informed about the client’s experience. The client feels cared for and you can address problems with some extra tweaks and get valuable feedback on client needs to be addressed in the future.

Recently, a colleague told me it’s wise to have at least 7 revenue streams. While it’s wonderful to work at keeping our great clients, it’s smart to keep building new products or services. I’m working on 5.

6. Eliminate assumptions and guesswork about what the other person thinks, wants or feels. Create the common ground for work together with accurate information from the start.

Ask direct questions with sincere interest in learning…

  • What is your understanding of our task?
  • What information were you given about what my role would be in this project/group/business?
  • What did you mean when you said ____________?
  • What led you to respond in that way? Walk me through the reasoning.
  • What do you like?

Use your senses and notice the sound of the voice, facial expression, sighs and body language. It’s useful to share your own assumption and ask if it’s correct… Caution: to do this effectively, you must bring your open, nonjudgmental mindset to learn from the other.

  • I sense some hesitation… am I right? If yes, then… tell me more about your hesitation.
  • The story I’m making up is that you’re upset and feel like I’m not open to a criticism of my idea. Am I right?

You don’t have to guess, ask.  Build relationships by demonstrating your interest in the other by asking questions and listen to what is said.

The takeaway is…

Being at your best includes checking out your assumptions. Be bold and prepared to tweak your perspective. Get ready to learn.

Have fun, take on the pithy assumptions and get involved with others by asking questions to bring out their best which paradoxically enhances your best!

We all win when our best is showing.

I’d love to know… What are incorrect assumptions you see people making about work and life?

Sign up for a complimentary “I’ve Got This!” Strategy Session.

Let’s meet and talk about your goals to be at your best at work and life. This will be so much fun and productive!

Why not give it a try?