Assumptions box us in. We like them though because they make our communications simpler. For instance, I am writing assuming you can read English. Assumptions can be conscious or unconscious. Either way, they anchor thoughts in our minds. They become the sides of the box outside of which we are trying to think. Challenging assumption exercises help to free us.
As I wrote previously, becoming better at challenging assumptions is about practice. Here, I offer three challenging assumptions exercises as practice. They will help us train our minds to see hidden assumptions.
Exercise #1: Hidden Sales Assumption
Do you want to buy the red one or blue one?
Salespeople frequently use these types of questions in various forms. The unsaid assumption is:
You want to buy either one.
Exercise #2: Leading Assumption
Many times descriptors influence how we think. For example, consider these two statements:
- This plan will get it done because it worked in a similar situation.
- This good plan will get it done because it worked in a similar situation.
Both give evidence why the plan will get it done. In the second one though, “good” is added. The assumption now is:
This is a good plan.
The statement does not define what good means. It is a leading assumption because it leads us to believe it is good because it will get the job done. We might need to consider other factors such as cost before we determine whether the plan is a good one.
Exercise #3: Hidden Leading Assumption
This occurs when we use words or phrases with positive connotations to lock in a view.
Everything went according to plan.
We tend to feel good when things go according to plan. It does not account for the fact that perhaps we missed great opportunities not in the plan. Thus, if we ask, “How did everything go?” and people wanted to hide the fact that they ignored a great opportunity that came up, they could respond with, “Everything went according to plan,” leading us to think all went well.
These challenging assumptions exercises help train our minds. Assumptions are not bad. They make communication easier. We just need to prevent them from boxing us in.
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