We’re all guilty of assumptions. It’d be pretty hard to get through life without making assumptions. We look at facts and then we put together the most reasonable story. Here’s an example:
Fact: He has big muscles. (You can observe the fact.)
Assumption: He must workout a lot. (Probable story, but maybe it’s related to his employment instead.)
The problem with facts and assumptions come into play when we become glued to our assumptions so that we can’t allow another scenario. We stop listening because we think we already know.
This is a danger for everyone, every profession. But I see it as one of the most dangerous hazards in marketing and communications. It’s our job to really listen, and to help everyone in our organization really listen to our clients, even when what is being said seems to fly in the face of reason. Really listen, then you can see if you’d like to alter your assumption.
Last week, my brother visited Seattle. Tyler works out. On Thursday, his last day in town, we decided to go to the gym together. He had a travel pass and I had a Gold’s Gym membership, so we went to my gym. Instead of heading to our separate routines (my cardio and his strength training), I asked if I could follow him around. I only see him once per year and I figured it’d be fun to shadow him, especially since he’s like a little boy in a candy shop in the gym. It’s fun to see how much he loves it.
When the Fitness Manager for the Gold’s Gym approached us and asked us how long we’d been working together, Tyler explained he was visiting and I said he was my brother. The Fitness Manager said “You’re obviously showing her how to use these machines, pointing to the muscles that they’re working. You’re training her.” Now, if the Fitness Manager was watching us this closely, you might think that he would have noticed that we’d been working on triceps for 90 minutes. Anyone who looked at me for 30 seconds would know that I would NEVER ask a trainer to help me work on my triceps for NINETY MINUTES.
But the Fitness Manager’s mind was ignoring certain facts. He was zeroing on other facts, which gave him strong conviction in his assumption.
His facts: This guy is huge. This girl is not. This guy is showing her how to do these exercises. This guy knows enough about these exercises that he can point to the part of the body they are working.
His assumption: This guy is training this girl. This guy is trying to make money off from my gym without hiring my trainers. This guy and this girl are scumbags who must be stopped, insulted, and made to leave.
So, now I’m making a few assumptions about the exact wording of his assumptions, but I have the facts of the conversation that have created my assumption. Needless to say, the encounter was not something I’d like to repeat and I have since canceled my membership.
But this experience got me thinking: how often do we all make mistaken assumptions? And what impact do they have?
It certainly made me think about how I communicate about my Center’s services and all the different ways our audience is touched by our brand, services, and people. It’s my responsibility to help everyone in our organization think about their impact, think about their assumptions, and open up general discussion about what goes well and what does not. And I need them to help me with my assumptions as well.
I hope that the subsequent conversation I have had with the Fitness Manager will better equip him to work with other clients differently. And I hope the membership cancelation email I sent to him and the General Manager will open conversations within the organization about its mission, vision, and message. The message last week was: YOU ARE AN AWFUL PERSON AND SIBLINGS CANNOT WORKOUT TOGETHER. That wasn’t what I signed up for.