The Danger of Assumption

There’s an old saying about what happens when you assume…you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’. I’ve recently found out that making assumptions is also dangerous.

About 3 weeks ago, I got a new phone, switching from my iPhone to an Android phone. I won’t go into all of the details of why or argue the benefits of one over the other, but one of the nuances I found out about the iPhone is that when you change to a non-iPhone, but keep your same number, other iPhones still try to communicate with you via iMessage instead of regular text message (This apparently is a common problem – click here). Since I no longer had an iPhone, most everyone who did and was trying to text me, did not have their message go through. Apparently there is a setting on iPhones where you can disable this, but it isn’t a default setting, and hard to find, so most people don’t even know about it. What does this all have to do with assumptions…a lot.

In today’s world, we all have people that we text with as our primary form of communication. I have a couple of those types of friends in my life and this weekend, after not getting any text responses from me for over 3 weeks, one of my neighbors stopped over to ask me why I wasn’t responding to his text messages. Glad we talked, because he was starting to get upset that I was just blowing him off. Another friend of mine, who I work on projects with from time to time asked me this weekend if I wasn’t interested in the recent project he had asked about a couple of weeks ago? I’m sure my look back at him was puzzling because I didn’t know anything about it…of course, he had texted me and I never received it. His response when I apologized profusely and said I’d love to work on the project with him…”oh, I just assumed you were swamped right now and didn’t have time.” Missed opportunity narrowly avoided.

It’s not all my iPhone-toting friends making dangerous assumptions. I’ve been making these myself with clients recently, too. Months ago, a prospective client that I’ve been working to do business with for a year told me face to face in his office that he had 5 projects that he was going to bundle together and have our company work on for him. He even went as far as to give me tons of detail on the projects and I put together formal proposals for them and sent them over for his sign off. That was over 60 days ago. Since I’m in sales, I naturally continued to follow up on getting the signed contracts back – at first calmly asking about them every other week or so, and then getting more persistent and more direct about him signing the contracts he had promised. After 2 weeks of NO RESPONSE AT ALL, I assumed that something must have changed his mind and he just didn’t want to tell me…a competitor came in with a better deal, his superior nixed the deal and told him he shouldn’t have promised, budgets got cut and the projects got put on hold, he was tired of me badgering him and decided he didn’t want to do business with me…you name it, I had made up a reason as to why he wasn’t sending the contracts. Since this client is on the other side of the country and not returning my calls or emails, I chalked it up to business lost. And then, out of the blue, I get an email from the client…”John, sorry for the delay, I’ve been working on the details of a 6th Project that I want to include with the others so that you guys can work on them all at the same time – I’m sending over the details of the 6th Project and I’d appreciate you putting together a proposal for that one and we’ll get them all signed off together and get rolling.” Come to find out, the 6th Project is going to be as big as the other 5 combined!

My dangerous assumption caused me a lot of unnecessary heartache. I’m sure that my friends assuming I was ignoring their text messages caused them some anxiety as well. It did, however, lead to some good – it made me realize how much I assume about people, feelings, and situations that have no validity whatsoever. That is valuable for two reasons: 1) It is a reminder that nearly always my assumptions are false and until I’ve had a chance to discuss things face to face with the other person, those assumptions are irrelevant and dangerous; and 2) Everyone else is making assumptions about me as well, and if I want to avoid others making false assumptions I should be clear, straightforward, and open about what I’m thinking both personally and professionally. I can’t control the actions of others, let alone pretend to understand what they are thinking, so I’d best stay focused on the known and the now while I strive to make sure that I am open with others so they can stay there with me.

So, if you’ve been trying to text me and getting no response, I’m not blowing you off! Change your iPhone settings or give me a call and we can chat.

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