Assumptions

Darth Vader Halloween costumeOne Halloween while helping my mom pass out candy, I saw a kid in a cute Bugs Bunny costume. The costume was made out of nice material instead of the weird smelling plastic mask and the stiff vinyl bodysuit. See Exhibit A for an lovely example of a vinyl Darth Vader costume. What’s up with my reaction in the photo? I wasn’t happy someone took my picture before I could get my mask on.
I can’t recall exactly how the cute Bugs Bunny costume looked except that it wasn’t the vinyl most of us wore those days unless we were lucky enough to have a parent who could sew or pull pieces together into a clever costume. It was probably some variation of these bunnies.
That costume stuck with me. When it came time to pick a costume for the following Halloween, I told my mom I wanted to be Bugs Bunny. I smiled as I pictured myself wearing that awesome costume instead of the plastic vinyl mashup.
What did I get?
This:
Bugs Bunny Halloween Costume
Think I was a happy wabbit?
Mom and I both understood what “Bugs Bunny” meant. The problem stemmed from her not knowing about the costume I saw the year before. And I didn’t provide more details because I assumed she’d find the right one. The costume I wanted was probably not available in any store. There I go again with an assumption that it was a homemade costume. The only way to find out was to ask the girl about her costume.
Assumptions lead to disappointment. How do we know what to communicate to a coworker, client or colleague? We’re stuck in our heads that we forget the other person doesn’t know XYZ. Learn to over-communicate and remember the other person may not have all the facts you do. Another helpful tool is to share examples. For a web design project, for example, clients can make a list of websites they like and explain why they like each one. Maybe it’s the color scheme in one design, the layout in another, the writing in another.
Sometimes it takes practice and experience. One client has a unique way of communicating his wants. He’s not a poor communicator, but a different type of thinker than I am. Not good or bad. Just is. That’s where understanding personality types helps. When he hired an intern, she confided that she had trouble understanding what he wanted. I admit feeling relieved knowing it wasn’t me and helped her learn from my experience.
Overcoming assumptions sounds simple. However, some folks think you’re not a self-starter if you keep asking questions and talking about it instead of running with it. Some fear asking too many questions reflects poorly on their abilities. Which would you rather have? Someone who erases assumptions with conversation and gets it right the first time, or someone who gets right to work and produces plastic vinyl results?
“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” – John Wooden.
How can you communicate better to avoid assumptions?

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