The Biggest Mistake in Communication

I can recall one of the biggest lessons I learned in communication as a young insurance producer. I was working with a commercial prospect and submitted a very competitive quote.

In fact, early the next week I called this prospect and asked if was ready to move forward. He said yes, but he did need to speak with his current agent to let him know his intentions. A few days went by and I hadn’t heard back from the prospect. I just “assumed” that everything was fine.

The next day I left my office and told my boss I was going to this prospect’s office to get the applications sign and pick up the check.

When I stopped in, the prospect had a funny look on his face. He said, “I’m really sorry, but my current agent was able to get my premium down and I went ahead and renewed with him.”

I gave him a puzzled look as if I was saying, “How dare you do this to me?” While it’s true the prospect did not handle the situation properly, the truth was neither did I.

I made one of the most common mistakes that leaders and sales professionals make when communicating……..I assumed.

This is one of the most common mistakes I observe in my coaching program 

Jerry Ballard says, “All miscommunications are the result of differing assumptions.”

While the example I gave was a sales example, assumptions occur in all areas of business communication.

One of my favorite stories I like to tell during one of my communication workshops is the experience Steven Covey describes in his famous book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” In this book, Steven describes a difficult situation he experiences on a subway train.

Steven discusses how he was on a subway train when a dad and his two boys got on the train. They boys were very rowdy and were disrupting the other passengers on the train. After a while, Steven finally had enough and approached the dad and told him that he needed to control his children. The father sheepishly looked up and said, “You are probably right. We are heading back from the hospital. Their mom just passed away and I don’t think they know how to deal with it.”

What’s the point?

You never know what the other person you are communicating with is thinking, feeling, or is experiencing.

As my mentor states, “When you make assumptions, whether it be during a sales process or with someone you just met, you stop paying attention and miss clues that would otherwise help you to find and reach common ground with them. ”

Do your best to clear you mind of generalizations or stereotypes of others. We all have bias, but assumptions make you less effective both in leadership and sales communication.

As Steven Covey says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

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