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You Know What Happens When You Assume?

Never assume intent or tone in your business emails.

I see it pretty regularly in email communications. Assumptions are flying all over the place. But, when it comes to your business email communications, you can not, should not, must not assume.

Just one wrong assumption can cost you business or an opportunity. You risk losing a potential client. Or, and I’ve seen this happen, business relationships compromised due to misunderstandings. Misunderstandings that create a lack of confidence or trust due to incorrect assumptions.

What do we assume in business emails?

  • Assumptions about what the other side is thinking. Did they state what they were thinking? If not, don’t assume.
  • Assuming what the choice of punctuation means other than accepting it on its face value. Try not to over-emphasize emphasis.
  • Assumptions as to what type of person is on the other side. Do you know this person well? Even if you do, can you emphatically state you know what they would do or think in any situation. Probably not — so don’t assume.
  • Assumptions about a person’s level of education or intelligence. That’s a tough one. Even I do so on occasion and have to put myself in check. Yet, in my experience, I see typo-filled, grammatically incorrect, error-laden emails — regardless of the level of intelligence and, yes, education.
  • Assumptions in response to a query or question that are not correct. Read the question or query entirely before answering. Then, read it out loud to be sure. Your assumption can make you look like the one not paying attention to the conversation.

Being business is all about relationships; it is clear that avoiding assuming is wise.

Just Don’t Assume

If you catch yourself assuming and are unsure what the other side meant, email back and ask for clarification. Try to avoid replying based on assumptions alone.

Put yourself in check to ensure you are not making assumptions backed up by your choice of words and how you used them. Asking for clarification based on unsubstantiated assumptions only reflects what you are assuming.

Assuming intent, tone, meaning, or motive in emails only hinders communications, not only that it can impact long-term relationships and encourage misunderstandings. That approach is most certainly not suitable for business.

Whether it be a coworker or supervisor, customer, or new contact, keeping your assumptions in check will help clarify your communications. And build more robust relationships over the long term.

I’ll leave you with this classic…

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