At least that’s what mothers tell their kids.
Of course, it’s pretty darned difficult to avoid assuming. It seems a goofy gift of fate that your brain and mind have an inborn talent for jumping to conclusions, operating from what is a believed common point, or plain ol’ guessing what another is thinking.
To assume: there are many meanings. One meaning is to take over the responsibilities of. Another meaning is to pretend. Particularly, to pretend to know.
All of these definitions are important when we consider assumption in communication.
Playwright George Bernhard Shaw once wrote: “The greatest barrier to communication--is the illusion of it.”
He was talking about illusions. Or, to put it another way....assumptions.
To assume: to make an ASS out of U and ME. (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone where you tell them something, they act as though they understand, then they go out and do not do as you’ve told them? Chances are that the reason for it, is because of an assumption. Both the assumption of understanding on the part of the listener, and the assumption of receptivity on the part of the sender caused the mix up.
Assumptions can ruin constructive effective communication. So, to avoid miscommunication, begin practicing these three easy tips.
- Practice Paraphrasing what the person just said. Say back to them what you heard or believe you heard them say. This way you can work out any problems on the spot rather than after the fact.
- Ask questions of the person. Doing such also allows the speaker to know you’ve not fully understood. As a speaker, asking questions of your audience allows you to know that they understood you. No, “do you understand?” is not a good question. Often people will say yes, even when they don’t. Never underestimate the power of the ego’s desire to protect itself. Practice asking open ended questions. For example: “Sorry, what did I just tell you? I lost track of my thoughts.” Seek clarity through questions.
- Finally, accept that 100 % understanding will probably never probably occur. So check your emotions. A riled up feeling of anger is not a good way to try and process information. If someone says a word that you feel yourself angry about, ask them what they mean by that word. Watch your emotions!