The Toxicity of Assumption

Assumption is a toxic communication habit. It is the killer of clarity. We leave vital information unsaid, while believing we have said all we needed to say. We place the burden on our audience to fill in the gaps and in so doing, we have now inspired countless narratives that misrepresent the intention of our communication.  

This phenomenon is more invasive than you may be aware. It shows up in low-impact ways, such as making plans with a friend. Often the conversation ends with something akin to, “Cool. Let’s connect Friday morning.” What’s left out here is who will reach out? A simple omission, but can derail the planning process and leave each party feeling frustrated, unclear, and, in some cases, forgotten and disrespected. Imagine this communication habit extending into sales conversations. Simply by establishing explicit followup expectations, everyone is on the same page, you have an agreement on action steps, and you all have to work a little less to guess about the other party’s intentions. In high stakes conversations, assumption will activate fear and insecurity. The ego kicks in and we can have the tendency to develop judgements or accusations based on a simple lack of clarity. End each conversation with definitive communication.

Assumption shows up in other ways such as pitching, storytelling, and brand communication. You are intimately familiar with your products, your purpose, and your value, but may not often take the time to develop language around it or it’s so obvious to you that you may not think to include it. Take a simple product description. You can tell me about the product, but perhaps you omit vital context around application or potential for impact upon integration. I see this all the time with my founders and sales clients. Create a full picture and allow me as the audience to step into your vision. It’s a negotiation between too much and just enough, but play with adding in too many details and trimming the fat rather than leaning on a leaner approach.

Assumption can be toxic. It can kill conversations, destroy relationships, or undermine business goals. Clarity is held in the heart of details and context. Prevent the opportunity for me to create your story through assumption. Define your story and allow me to buy in and become a raving fan!

Minna Taylor