Don’t Make Assumptions When Resolving Conflicts

There is an old adage that some of us have probably run across. It is, “Don’t assume. When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me.” (For the uninitiated, look at the word “assume” and make the appropriate connections). But I think the real and more important reasons not to make assumptions — about anything — is because you’ll probably never know the truth if you assume, and that leads to false premises. And false premises are akin to building a house on a pile of sand. Because the foundation is transitory, so is the house.

He’s Just Not That Into You – Not!

Now I’m not talking about making the assumption that it’s not logical or safe to swim in the ocean if you don’t already know how to swim. That’s a sure bet. I’m referring to making assumptions about other people, their agendas, their interests, their personalities without objective, concrete evidence. For example, you arrive at your friend’s barbeque and find yourself sitting next to a very attractive, nicely dressed man. Although you take steps to initiate conversation, he responds very little and you assume that he doesn’t find you attractive. So you excuse yourself and wander off to greener pastures. Later you discover (from your friend) that his father died a month ago, and the only reason he came to the barbeque was because of her friendly persuasion that he get out and socialize. His non-responsiveness, then, had nothing to do with you and was related to something completely different.

Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

The most damaging assumptions are often made in negotiations and in those situations where clarity of communication is all-important. One (or more) mistaken assumption(s) can sound the death knell for the dialogue without any of the parties necessarily knowing or understanding why. (That is, of course, unless they really take the time to unwind the morass of the dialogue’s tentacles to determine where they veered off course).

It is always better to ask questions in order to obtain the answer than to make an assumption and be wrong. People will be flattered by your questions — they will take it as a sign of your interest and concern for them. Ask — don’t assume — and observe how your communication and negotiations improve.

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