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The (Negative) Power of the Assumption

Aug 26, 2015

Posted by

Charles Dahlheimer

Recognized as one of the industrys leading visionaries, Dahlheimer is publisher of The Real Estate Professional magazine and The Real Estate Executive Summary.  He co-authored Real Es Read more

In an op-ed piece, “The Poison of Assumption,” Charles Maley points out the not-so-obvious falacies involved in the process of making assumptions.  “The problem with assumptions is that we believe them to be true,” says Maley.  Does your wife really forgive you when you bring flowers?  (Or has she already hired an attorney?)  Is your boss really impressed with the long hours you’re putting in?  (Or is she disappointed that you can’t get your work done during normal working hours?)  “When we assume, instead of inquire, we invite problems.”

To avoid surprises, Maley suggests that we “think in reverse,” whenever we are tempted to assume anything.  If you think the buyers have finally settled in on what should have been their obvious choice all along, think again—but in reverse.  They’re not asking you to find other properties to show them.  Does that mean they’ve narrowed the choices down to just one or two?  Or are they giving up?  Or does it mean that they’re shopping with someone else?  Or have they found a FSBO that looks good to them? Never assume anything.  The only way to avoid assumption is to ask!

Old timers in the industry will remember Dave Stone, a consultant to the building industry and author of the original “Guaranteed Sales Plan.”  When lecturing real estate practitioners, Dave would write the word ASSUME on the board, then break it into pieces:  "ASS - U - ME" while verbalizing, “When we don’t ask, but just assume, it will make an ass out of you and me.”

The doctor tells you that you need back surgery to get rid of that awful pain you’re having.  Don’t assume that because he’s a successful surgeon his opinions are always correct.  Ask what your options might be.  Get a second opinion.  Ask. Don’t assume.

An obviously successful businessman in your community tells you that he and his wife are thinking about moving to a bigger house.  Excited by the prospect of listing his home and finding him another, you head to the MLS to begin your work.  Obviously they’re successful and would be ideal clients, you assume.  They’ll know what they want and will be able to afford it! You wouldn’t think of putting them through the normal financial qualification process!  All assumptions.  Ask.  Investigate.  Take nothing for granted.




Maley drives his point home with the following historical insights: 

Lee de Forest who invented the cathode ray tube in 1926 said, ‘Theoretically, television may be feasible, but I consider it impossibility -- a development which we should waste little time dreaming about.’ 

Thomas J. Watson who was the Chairman of the Board at IBM in 1943 said "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.’ 

In 1895 Albert Einstein's teacher told his father "It doesn't matter what he does, he will never amount to anything." 

And Decca Recording Company rejected the Beatles in 1962 saying "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”

So much for assumptions!