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This heavy-handed tactic is used to gain acceptance unscrupulously. There are two versions. First, in the straight assumption, we simply fill in the blanks without gaining assent and present the deal to the person. In its most benign state it is rude; in its worst, illegal. A more insidious use of assumption is when it is plotted as a verbal cue to promote alliance in a social dynamic.


The straight assumption is clear. Negotiator 1: “I assumed you wanted the red dress so I ordered it for you.” Negotiator 2: “How unfortunate you chose wrong, but the reality of the situation is that even had I wanted it, I do not appreciate you making such bold assumptions. This is what I will consider…” An example of the alliance assumption – which is less aggressive and has an air of customer service – and its countermeasure are as follows: Negotiator 1: “I assumed you would accept this offer, so I will extend it to you.” Negotiator 2: “I appreciate the intimate customer service and offer, but assumption, expectation, and emotion seldom reflect reality. That offer is not acceptable but this one is … Can you do that?”


A straight assumption is a bold move to create an asymmetry. It must be countered reciprocally; because it is blunt, one must be blunt in kind. Call out the assumption as rude and fill in your own requirements.When negotiating, the tactics used should always be in accord with the intended result, and the wants of both parties should be clearly communicated. Assumptions eviscerate this imperative. Demand a concession in your favor to re-build trust, using the transgression as an opportunity for great movement in your direction. The feeling of guilt, or of wanting to “save face,” create powerful dynamics when assumptions are called out. Overly aggressive tactics may be met with aggression, but service-focused ones should not be aggressively handled.

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