Saturday Morning Quick Thought: Making Assumptions



Before you draw the wrong assumptions you need to get that clock in your head working to remember to ask the right questions and get clarification!

by Skip Cohen

For whatever the reason, this morning I’m aware of the fact that I’ve really missed the opportunity to just rant a little. Remember, it’s the weekend and I tend to go with whatever is on my mind. This morning it’s about people who make assumptions.

We all do it, some more than others.  We do it in our personal lives, business, on events for the future and on decisions from the past. The big question is, why don’t we ever simply just talk to the people involved instead of coming to our own, often misguided assumptions?

Wandering through cyber space a couple of years ago I found this on a site by Ken Lahuer:

“We have a tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we BELIEVE they are the truth.  We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking, we take it personally, and then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word.

We only see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. We don’t perceive things the way they are; we literally dream things up in our imagination. Because we are afraid to ask for clarification, we make assumptions that we believe are right, then we defend our assumptions and try to make others wrong.”

The photo industry is loaded with people who have turned assumption drawing into an art form. I’ve heard stories about major companies in trouble, cameras being discontinued, even people being let go. I’ve heard stories so severe that had they been more widespread, the companies involved would have actually seen a drop in sales. 

Then there are the personal stories that run through our industry.  Assumptions are drawn over why somebody left a company, why a new product was late for introduction, why a policy was changed and the list goes on and on. Assumptions are drawn, then they hit the rumor mill and suddenly they’re FACT – and not once does anybody along the way stop and simply call the people involved for verification.

Last on the list are those of you who draw the wrong assumptions about your clients, because you don’t ask the right questions and too often stereotype their behavior. Here’s a prime example of drawing the wrong impression at the retail level.

I was in my early fifties when I decided I wanted to buy a Corvette. I’d always wanted one and the kids were out of the house and it seems like great timing. I was in an old pair of shorts, flip flops and a t-shirt when I wandered into the showroom at the Chevy dealer in Morristown, NJ. I picked up all the brochures, spent time sitting in one that was in the showroom, looked at a few in the lot and not one person waited on me.  There were easily six salesmen working and not one came over to help me.

After twenty minutes or so, I walked into the middle of the showroom and announced, “I honestly thought you guys were smart enough to recognize a guy in mid-life crisis ready to buy his first Vette. Obviously none of you are that smart and I’m leaving now to drive up to Paramus to another dealership where by the end of the day my new Vette will be ordered. You guys need to work on your selling skills!”

They all looked like a deer caught in your headlights! I left and as promised, by the end of the day, the new Vette was on order.  And I learned it really wasn’t mid-life crisis. It’s only mid-life crisis if you order it in red! The bottom line is stop drawing assumptions – meet every client with a clean slate and just see where it goes. If you’re worked on developing your skill set you can handle any request they make!

Well, for everyone who draws assumptions, and we’re all guilty, the earlier quote is from The FourAgreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  His closing paragraph on the topic hits the nail right on the head:

The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions. Make sure the communication is clear. If you don’t understand, ask. Have the courage to ask questions until you are as clear as you can be. Once you hear the answer, you will not have to make assumptions because you will know the truth.

Illustration Credit: © MH –


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