Apparently this advice is as old as the Earth. Still, Benny Hill (1924-1992), the great English comedian, nailed it in this skit:
Public speakers should listen to Benny Hill because they just love to assume. In a training in 2013, the CFO of an Internet company, enthusiastically proclaimed, We all love shopping! In the feedback round after the speech, his boss, the CEO, growled with contempt: I hate shopping!
Ever since, I focus on assumptions. Today, I hear assumptions all the time. They haunt me!
Here’s a list of classical assumptions and my thoughts:
- We all love shopping. (No, I don’t.)
- We all have experienced something similar. (No, not me.)
- Everyone wants to be rich. (Excuse me?)
- No one loves to be alone. (I know people who do.)
- All of us have done it. (Nope.)
- Probably, you’ve been to Paris. (How do you know?)
- Probably, you don’t know what I’m talking about. (Yes, I do!)
- You might be thinking now… (No.)
- Maybe this sounds familiar to you. (No.)
- Maybe you disagree. (Nope, I agree.)
What’s the solution to this?
I’ve learned about three ways to tackle those painful assumptions.
Those of you who…
You’re always safe when you start your phrases with Those of you who.
- Those of you who love shopping…
- Those of you who want to be rich…
- Those of you who have been to Paris…
In this case, those ones who don’t love shopping, don’t want to be rich or haven’t been to Paris, don’t feel misjudged.
As a speaker, your audience automatically perceives you as a role model. They identify with you, your stories, your experiences. The I-narrative is unassailable. Those who’ve had the same experiences can relate to you. Those who haven’t, can either feel inspired or not, but they never feel misjudged.
- I have done it.
- I don’t like to be alone.
- Shopping isn’t my biggest passion in life.
The best way, for me, to tackle those assumptions, is the closed question.
- Who of you have been to Paris?
- Do you disagree?
- Are you thinking now that…?
Apart from always being on the safe side, any question makes the audience think, hence they’re much more attentive.
Listen to Benny Hill and stop making an A** out of U and ME!