Anatomy of Assumption

Webster's Unabridged Dictionary

Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary

A certain amount of assumption has to take place, or even the simplest instructions would be overwhelming.  Of course there is also that old saw that we all know: assume and it makes an a** out of you and me.  (I can still see my dad’s devilish grin as he shared it with me and my brother and got the desired DAVE from our mom.  Daring stuff for my non-swearing parents.)

Assumption (n.)

Something taken for granted; the act of supposition or taking for granted; the act of taking upon oneself.  Synonyms: shouldering

The question then is how much assumption is warranted in each situation?  Assume the need for a lot of explanation and you run the risk that you’ll bore or confuse your audience with too much extraneous exposition and lose your original point.  Assume that there is little need for explanation and back story or supporting evidence and you quite possibly might cause everyone to tune you out because they don’t understand.

The better that you know your target audience (substitute reader, recipient, etc. as the situation requires) the more predictable your success will be.  The more complex the situation or topic, the higher the probability that success will be dependent upon breaking down the topic and offering a multi-prong approach such as large group presentation and small group breakout sessions.

It also depends on your medium.  If you are writing a report or an article, you can err on the side of assuming more detail is needed for understanding because the reader can always pick out the parts needed for their own understanding of the subject and skip more familiar information.  A presentation that is too detailed or not detailed enough could lead to many asides within the audience and overall distraction within the audience.

Sometimes there is an expectation that detailed information tailored specifically to the recipient’s needs are provided elsewhere.  My example would be my first several years of college.  I had absentee advising for the most part.  I didn’t know the questions to ask, and my advisor made the assumption that if I wasn’t asking, everything was fine.  So everything that I understood about scheduling I learned from the university’s catalog.  For instance, I found that 12 credit hours constituted full time status so that is what I scheduled for myself.  I was confounded to find out that there were a specific amount of credit hours required to advance from one level to another, i.e. freshman to sophomore.  Huh.  The assumption on the part of the university and that advisor that I understood the basic process cost me a lot of time.

And that brings us to the causes of assumptions.  I would prefer to think that it was unintentional on the part of both the university and the advisor that I ended up in a bind.  But realistically individuals and institutions can use assumptions on their own or their clients’ part to improve their financial gain.

My early experience with assumptions led me to a realization that I am very interested in process and also made me very aware of intended and unintended assumptions on the part of those with whom I interact.

© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations

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1 Comment

Filed under Personal Growth, Work Life

One response to “Anatomy of Assumption

  1. Pingback: When You Assume... Part II | Edward Antrobus

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