Oh yes, I am going bold with my headline today. I am talking about the word assume, which I think is a great word. Actually, it’s a dangerous word. I believe that when we make assumptions we end up with unintentional, often bad consequences.
I thought of this most intriguing word last week, at a business where I am doing some contract work. The team at this business is a group of hard-working, dedicated, good people. They are a mix of young and more experienced employees; some have been there many years while others are new.
An event was carefully planned by the group, with specific roles communicated. Every detail seemed to be in place, but a few key players did not follow through with the roles they were assigned. We all assumed that everyone would do their job, and we did not check in with each of the players. The team came together fast and picked up the pieces, but our assumptions showed holes in the plan.
Once everyone was calm, later in the day, I looked at one of my wonderful colleagues and said to her, “Today will make a great blog post because when you assume…,” and she answered, “You make an ass out of you and me.” Correct.
It’s exactly how we felt that day. And we all learned never to assume.
But did we learn? How many times can we all say we made an assumption and lived to regret it later?
Sometimes our assumptions can have minor, almost laughable consequences. It’s a beautiful, sunny morning. You throw on a t-shirt and head out for the day, leaving the umbrella at home of course. You assume that if it’s sunny outside the weather will be nice all day. Hours later, you regret that you did not check the weather forecast, which would have told you that rain was expected in the afternoon. You arrive home soaked and cold.
Sometimes I go out for the evening, to the theatre with my mother or dinner with the ladies. I leave my husband, David, at home with the kids. The kitchen is not quite cleaned up and the house is a mess. When I leave my house, I assume that I will come home, hours later, to a clean kitchen and sleeping children. Boy, am I wrong, every single time. Maybe one child is asleep or maybe the leftovers from dinner will be in the fridge and David is usually asleep. But, clean kitchen and three sleeping children? Never.
When you assume, sometimes there can be more serious consequences than getting wet in the rain or finding three children running around your house at 11:00 pm. If your child had a fever overnight and woke up in the morning with a lower body temperature don’t assume he or she is better and send the kid to school. That fever will be back in a few hours and you will get the call of shame to pick the kid up.
When you are waiting at a traffic light to make a left turn and it’s about to go red do not assume that the car accelerating towards you will stop when that light goes red so that you can make your turn. Wait a couple of seconds, because most drivers want to make the light. If you assume that car will stop and you start to turn, then you may get into an accident. I never assume that a car will stop.
Okay back to some assumptions with less dire consequences. Has your child ever come up to you and said, “Mommy (or Daddy), I think I need to throw up.” You assume you have time to get said child to a toilet or to get a bucket. But, moments later, you are covered in vomit.
Have you ever walked down the street after a big rainstorm, where everywhere around you are huge puddles? You see a big car coming towards you and assume the person will slow down. Oh, but no. The car drives briskly through the puddles, leaving you covered in dirty, disgusting rainwater.
There are so many more examples I can cite when we assume and then must deal with the consequences. So, I guess there is a simple solution: go with your instincts, and never assume!