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Never assume, anything.

It’s hard not to assume sometimes. As entrepreneurs, we assume who our potential clients are. As bloggers, we assume our readers want to read about certain things and then comment, love and share. As people, we assume people will be courteous and kind. We also assume people understand us, that they “get” it.

Well, as with everything, there are exceptions and we are often wrong.

I’ve always felt that assumptions are the root of all F-ups.

Never assume you know who your next client is

A few years ago, John and I had been on the road since 5am making presentations to potential clients. It was 3pm and we had a 2.5hr drive home. We were on a road in the middle of the desert on the border of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

“Who is this meeting with?” John asked me.

I rummaged through my file and told him the name.

“Who?” he sighed “should I just keep driving, they are never going to be clients?”

“Well, since we are here, what have we got to lose?” I replied.

We went to the meeting, no boardroom, no entrourage. Just a down to earth guy in a cubicle. John and I looked at each other. We both assumed the same thing – this is a waste of time, he is not a decision maker.

We were then asked to quote for a number of programmes. The meeting was over in record time. John and I were confused. Would they pay? We assumed no.

I’ll spare you the details but they ended up being our largest client. We worked with over 300 of their employees within 3 months.

Never assume you know someone or where they come from

Last week I received an email from someone I’ve never had any contact with who started the email with “Marhaba Ameena” (Arabic for “greetings”). This actually annoyed me, it was off putting.

The sender assumed I spoke Arabic from my name. As it happens, I don’t speak Arabic. Some may think they are being cute – they assume I’ll get it – I don’t.

Similarly, I’ve been complimented on how well I speak English when someone learns that I was born in Dubai. Wow, thanks – I don’t speak anything else! Also, never call me sister. I am not a nun. I have a sister thanks, and one is enough.

Some guys liked to be called “bro” – that’s their prerogative but I would advise against calling anyone “bro”, “dude”, “babe” – until you really know them.

Rather than assume, ask a question to open the door before diving in head first with your underwear over your head.

Never assume that you know what your readers want

After a while you can get an inkling of what your readers want to see on your site.

Don’t let this fool you.

You run the risk of compromising your content. I know I felt I found a “formula” for my other site. It worked a couple of times and then I started writing for my assumed audience.

And guess what? It got old and stinky. I felt so blah about writing the posts and I guess that came out in my writing!

Keep it you. Keep on that impossible quest to be authentic!

Are you guilty of assuming things? Does it work for you? If not, how do you avoid it?

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19 Responses to Never assume, anything.

  1. Danny B:

    Great post Amy,

    I can totally relate to this – even though I work in a different industry (IT). I am always working with different clients, industries and personalities. Their backgrounds are always different, as are their agendas, the way they come across and present themselves.

    Countless times in my 10 years working in this industry have I learned the hard way and made mistakes in assuming I ‘know it all’ and know where my clients are coming from. I’m sure I will continue to make the wrong assumptions going forward, as sometimes in our human nature I think, and unavoidable.

    But yes, it’s an extremely useful learning point and outlook to try and adopt – not only in business, but in life as well (possibly with a few adaptations). I think sometimes people need to go through this process of sussing the other person out; their motives; their history and what makes them tick before you can enter into a fruitful relationship (business or personal).

  2. Sophie:

    Excellently written and so true.

  3. Appearances can be very deceiving. I get called “honey” or “cutie” because I am small. These people clearly don’t know me! I am not your honey, sweetie, baby or any other thing.

    I used to sell women’s shoes at Nordstrom years ago. One day while I was working, I began helping a young mother and her daughter. They purchased about $1,500.00 worth of merchandise in about a half-hour. She was dressed very casually in jeans and a t-shirt and it was only when she gave me her credit card that I saw she was married to one of the New York Yankees.

    Yeah. You might not want to make assumptions about people. :)

  4. Allison:

    Yes, this hits a nerve with me. I have a good friend that constantly calls people “bro”, like waiters or people who work in stores like Home Depot. Everytime it happens, I just bristle. It seems so rude an inappropriate to me.

    I think you’re giving good advice here. It’s hard to do, but leaving assumptions about people behind is always a good idea.

  5. For me people assume I don’t wash my hair or do I? Seriously? I know I am black and I do wash my hair! LOL! I have long hair and I get people asking me silly questions all the time. My advice: if you want to know, look it up online…we have shampoo too! LOL!

    Do I get mad, no, because most times people don’t know any better, but then you get those “select dummies” that figure they should talk to you in slang and I look at them thinking, “Are you serious?”.

    I use to work with an Engineer and I use to tell him to stop talking slang with customers (not sure how this guy got hired anyway)because they don’t get it and it doesn’t belong in the work place. Needless to say he didn’t last long in that position.

    How you conduct yourself at home and around your friends is one thing, but in the corporate world, it just don’t work no matter how funny they think you are.

    Assumptions only make you look stupid.

    Sorry Ameena, I had to have alittle fun with this one. Great post girl!

    • Awesome Sonia! The crazy things people ask!!!! A lot of the crazy stuff I get asked I just laugh and shrug off. I get told off for speaking English to MY daughter here in France. Urrr Hello? My kid? AND my French sucks. Truly. It’s functional but incorrect at the best of times. I digress.

      Yes, a goo sense of humour can get you only so far!

      Thanks for passing by and giving a great insight into you challenges :)

  6. Just wanted to say hi to all the babes, cuties, honeys, bros and dudes. Yes, i am guilty of assumptions and i have a tendency to call people one of those “nice” things. Sorry. a lot of people in the south do that without even thinking twice. I am working on it and know you are right. it is a habit I got from my dad and its hard to change. I will continue to work on it, as it is really important in the business and on line world. thanks for this thought provoking post. Babe. Ha !

    Al

    • What’s up Al? Did you just call me “babe?” :)

      As I said to Jacob, if it’s a cultural thing that everyone around you “gets” then don’t change. I find when I work across borders it gets complicated.

      Thanks for stopping by! Have a great week!

  7. I can second what Al said – being from the South of the USA, I’ll bro and “man” and “sir” and “ma’am” everyone… But I think I tend to do that with folks who I sense will “get it’… may be ingrained in me. I think it creates a temporary trust and helps bring guard down, especially between “bro” and “bro”…with the ladies, I hold off the lingo, unless they’re older, then it’s an automatic “ma’am”.

    Love what you said about not assuming with clients; obviously use discernment and put the right amount of time to feeling out each individual case, but avoid making assumptions based on surface aspects; could be a big fish.

    Hope the Falchettos are enjoying their Sunday.

    • Thanks Jacob! I guess if it’s part of your culture to sir, or ma’am someone then that’s cool. But would you ever do that in China? I’d be interested to know.

      • Hi Ameena, fun chat. Yes, I’d say, labels are expected here. People rarely go by their first names and it’s odd, unless you are really close to someone to even know their first name (unless they are a child to teen, then more common).

        So everyone is called according to who they are in relation to you; lots of “sirs” “master” or “boss”, but for the lady, it could be “aunty” or the equivalent of “grandma”. Can even be kind of annoying keeping tabs on it all!

  8. Hi Ameena!

    Excellent post! I received the same very stupid comment “You speak really good English” as an opening line on the phone from a woman selling a medical course (very expensive course) that I was interested in taking. My response was “Well, I should hope so as I was born and raised in the USA.” Needless to say, it turned me off on the organization.

    It is really easy to do… make these assumptions. Great reminder not to.

    Best, Rajka

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