You've heard the saying “When you assume it makes an “a**” out of “u” and ’me’. I don’t believe that’s always the case and I wouldn’t quite put it like that because I’m a classy chick, but I WILL tell you that when it comes to communication, many of us assume way more than we should.
I work with clients on job interviews, elevator pitches, formal and informal presentations. I’ve noticed that in all of these different types of communication, people assume that their listeners know way more than they actually do. Maybe in this day and age we’ve become so afraid of giving TMI (too much information) that we often end up leaving out important details. Assumptions that get in the way of communication come in two forms: Emotional Assumptions (assuming someone feels or will feel a certain way) and Logical Assumptions (assuming someone knows certain things). Here are examples of logical and emotional assumptions. Don’t let them doom your next communication.
I can’t tell you how many times working with clients on job interviews or presentations, a person will give a job title or brief description and then assume that the listener will know everything they need to know. Most of us are so intimate with the minutia that goes into what it is that we do that we make the assumption that everyone else is equally familiar with it and therefore omit important details that can help your listener truly understand what it is you do. Yes, there is that occasional narcissist who is all too happy to bore you with a blow by blow account of how they watched paint dry but believe me, in face to face communication, those folks are rare.
Emotional Assumption: You know how your listener or audience feels about a topic.
Many times in preparing for a presentation, my clients will say things like,”I know you all want” “You must be tired of…” Whenever I hear those kinds of statements a little caution light goes on and I encourage a different word choice. For example: “I know some of you might want” or “Many of you may be tired of…” Why? Because most people hate being pigeon holed or having their thoughts and emotions lumped together with the thoughts and emotions of a large group that they may or may not know. It may be important to bring up negative assumptions that an audience may have about your topic, (it’s called getting the elephant out of the room) But it’s equally important not to categorically assume what people are thinking or feeling. Feel it out by using modal auxiliaries, (might, could, may etc) they’re not called the “polite” forms of speech for nothing.