Be Careful When You… Make Assumptions

Making assumptions is one of the ways we learn – especially as children, but as we grow older making assumptions can get in the way of our performance and quality control; it can also give us a reputation as a know-it-all. While we might feel that making assumptions is helping us get to the ‘next-steps‘ quickly by ‘fast tracking‘ a meeting or conversation, making assumptions has greater risk of being an enormous time waster – not time saver.

Now that I’ve opened up a hornets nest of a topic, let me give you an example.


Consider a time at work when you’ve been explaining a need or problem to an associate and before you finish explaining they interrupt and say, “I know – that same thing happened to me…”, or perhaps “I know how to fix that, just go to….”.

Sound familiar? It happens all the time and it’s one place I regularly get to ‘practice‘ my mindfulness communication techniques to not be triggered but to instead stay open and focused on the greater objective.

I invite you to watch for it in others and even in yourself.

In today’s economy where we continue to be pressured to move faster and get more done, I believe being too quick to make assumptions is starting to back-fire on us. The result is that everywhere we look time, resources, man-hours and money were wasted… literally thrown away. There are examples all around us where we, our associates and our suppliers are making mistakes – wasting valuable time and resources. Why? Is it because they are the wrong people for the job? NO!  It’s because someone made assumptions about the goal, objective, need without checking-in to validate those assumptions. 

Revenue, budgets, profitability, creativity and employee satisfaction are being lost at alarming rates. 

What Solution Can We Use?

Slow down! Be mindful! Take the time to ask a few questions before moving forward. And if you are a boss, give your staff time to ask those questions… support them when they ask. If you manage people, let me share a secret with you. Many of your staff might be scared to ask questions because they fear you might think they don’t know what they’re doing.  Incompetence is a real fear. Seriously!

Be careful to give your employees, clients and suppliers room to ask questions. Let them know you encourage questions and clarification. Perhaps you have a boss and can relate. I’m not religious, but… “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” Matthew 7:12 NIV

For most of us making assumptions is habit – we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Reading this might be the first time you’re considering your actions this way… and that’s OK… today is a new day.


If you make fewer assumptions you should:

  • Be more productive
  • Feel less stress
  • Do more of what you are good at
  • Waste less time and fewer resources
  • Experience a greater sense of pride
  • And so much more…

All of this will help you be happier – and when you are happier your work will feel less like ‘work’ and more like ‘fun’. And when work makes you happy you’ll be less stressed, more creative and more productive – and you’ll be more fun to hang around with.  Your temper won’t be as short, you’ll sleep better, you’ll be noticeably more cooperative.

You’ll be able to do your best because you enjoy work – you get personal satisfaction and pride from your work… not pressure, stress, frustration and demoralizing grief.


Study after study demonstrates people want job satisfaction, a sense of belonging and feeling valued, and learning over higher pay as key indicators of loyalty.  As companies strive to create loyalty, the answer to higher ROI is staring at us. Being Careful When You Make Assumptions is just one piece of the puzzle.

If you’re looking to start down the path of making fewer assumptions, here are a few areas we help our clients work through during our training sessions:

  • Listen and watch actively
  • Evaluate but don’t judge
  • Validate each others needs and objectives (before moving forward)
  • Pause when you need… a break
  • Engage passionately, with pride

With clear communication all your relationships will change – professionally and personally.

Happy communicating.

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About Bruce Mayhew
Bruce Mayhew is a Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker and Corporate Trainer who builds strong client and co-worker relationships that give clients a competitive advantage. Our training and development programs include: ■Generational Differences ■Effective Business Email Writing ■Email Etiquette ■Phone Etiquette ■Behaviour Event Interviewing (BEI) ■Mindfulness ■Using Linkedin to Build Client Relationships ■Objective Setting Made Easy

6 Responses to Be Careful When You… Make Assumptions

  1. Assumptions can go both (either) ways. I remember a sign posted on a narrow footpath in Hamburg, Germany this Summer. Translated it read as “Sensible people do not ride their bicycles here. For all the rest, it is forbidden!” How many assumptions are present there (and where :)? Good article and thank you. Bryce

    • Bruce Mayhew says:

      Hi Bryce,
      Great hearing from you – thanks for your comment. I’m sure that as a marketing / brand / coach master, you must see – and have to avoid – much of this.

  2. It’s very true that assumptions start us off in life as a way we put all the pieces together. When they become dangerous is when we jump too far with our assumptions that they become no longer as accurate. Slowing down is great advice to making sure we take the time to really listen to what someone’s saying before assuming we have the answer.

  3. Bruce Mayhew says:

    Good morning Stephanie,
    Thank you for commenting. It’s great to have a PR professional chiming in. Certainly jumping too far… and too fast is a big risk. Taking 5 minutes to validate objectives vs working 2 days on unconfirmed objectives (only to have work / effort / personal pride), thrown away is an enormous (avoidable), cost. It’s one of my Mindfulness and Time Management training tips.
    Have a great day Stephanie.

  4. Pingback: It’s Helpful To Have Judgment At Work « Bruce Mayhew Blog: Business Communication

  5. Pingback: Puzzled with Questions… « Wonder Woman Blog

I’ll enjoy reading your thoughts and your experiences.

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