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Assumptions Derail Communication
Guest articles > Assumptions Derail Communication
by: Deb Calvert
At the root of every miscommunication, of every misunderstanding, is an assumption. We assume that people know exactly what we mean. We assume that people interpret things the same way we do. We assume that we have been clear enough–emphatic enough–frequently enough to get our point across.
Oftentimes, we have not been clear. We don’t know that, so we go about our business operating under the assumption that others will do exactly what we intended as a result of our communication. When they fail to deliver what we expected, we are disappointed, perhaps even angry. That’s not fair.
Similarly, we make assumptions when others communicate to us. We over-rely on our past experiences and on our own limited frame of reference. We think we know what others mean because we filter what they say to calibrate it with what’s familiar, comfortable or desirable to us. That’s not fair either.
We could all improve our communications simply by checking our assumptions. Here are some ways that we can do that:
We make the most assumptions in conversations with those whom we are close to. We may make these assumptions because we take people for granted. We elevate our expectations to an unreasonable level. We expect those nearest and dearest to us to understand us at a very deep level. That’s why we think that they will always, without exception, understand exactly what we mean even when we’re not very clear. It’s why we get so easily disappointed when our communications with these people fail.
Communication shortcuts seldom work. If you hear yourself saying, “But you should’ve known,” then chances are that you should’ve made something known. If you hear others saying this to you, then a good strategy going forward will be to ask more questions and get the clarity you need. Explain to others that you did not intend to misunderstand but that there was an assumption made that compromised the communication. Look for those assumptions in all of your conversations and call them out so they won’t derail communication.
In all communication, we have an equal responsibility to understand and to be understood. To avoid frustrations that follow assumptions, be proactive. Instead of assuming, be clear and complete in all of your communication. Instead of leaving room for others to make assumptions, check for understanding. By doing so, you will be more effective as a communicator. And those who are communicating with you will feel more effective, too.
Deb Calvert is President, People First Productivity Solutions
Contributor: Deb Calvert
Published here on: 02-Mar-14
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