In the years gone by, in a more leisurely world, we all took time to find out. It was from the grapevine - from friends, from colleagues, from some published information. Generally it was over a period of time. We also had the luxury of making some assumptions - and we were generally not too far wrong.
But in this electronic age, knowledge is more accessible – at the touch of a button - and therefore there is less of an excuse to make unfounded assumptions, getting it all wrong (even if sometimes right).
In my own field of marketing, there are many jokes about salesmen making assumptions and getting it all wrong some of the time.
There is the story of the door-to-door salesman, who pressed the door bell and cheerily said “Good morning, Ms John,” and she said that she is not Ms John, but Estrela, the maid!
She then called Ms John.
The salesman continued his pitch. He said he had come to offer an encyclopedia at a very attractive price.
To fob him off, she said that “We already have one – in fact, it is there (she pointed to the shelf top, close to the main door)”.
He said no. That is the Bible.
She saw that he was right and was surprised.
How did you know, she asked?
From the amount of dust on it, was the smart reply.
An assumption which was right!
In another case, the door-to-door salesman selling vacuum cleaners insisted on being allowed into the house for just 10 minutes – in spite of the protestations of the housewife.
He would do a quick demonstration of his excellent product and then go away.
When he brought the cleaner out of the bag, and looked around for a switch, so that he could start the machine, he discovered that the house had no electricity!
He had jumped to conclusions that every home in this area must be having electricity.
It was a large formal dinner party. People were moving from one group to another “catching up” as they say.
I happened to be in a small group chatting, when a couple came and joined us. I am John Scott, he said. And this is Jane.
One of our friends, old world, and old style, extended his hand and said “Glad to meet you, Ms Scott.”
He had crossed the red line with jumping to conclusions.
John immediately corrected him. “She is my partner – not my wife. She is Jane McDonald.”
There was an embarrassed silence in the group, due to a jump to a conclusion.
When Ravi and Uma Kapoor were invited to my home for dinner for the first time, we took a lot of trouble to prepare for this evening. We had met them only last month and were very impressed with them.
But the evening was a partial disaster. Being a Punjabi from Delhi, my wife and I had assumed, that the Kapoors were non-vegetarians - and the menu was organised appropriately.
It was a minor shock to know, just before dinner, that they were strict vegetarians.
You can understand our plight. But it was our fault.
We had jumped to conclusions.
Many decades ago, when I was informed on the phone that a vice president of a foreign bank would call on me at my office to discuss some possibilities of cooperation - I was flattered.
Until much later, I found that it was a relationship manager, who was given the title so that the status will improve in the eyes of the client. A question of jumping to conclusions.
In the US, four decades ago, I would find surprised faces when I went to meet someone for the first time.
It was evident when I walked into the office of the person with whom I might have had multiple conversations on the telephone – but I was personally meeting for the first time.
Then, I knew. They would assume that with my name, I was an American or a European. But I was a brown from India.
They would jump to conclusions.
I then ensured that this would not happen thereafter. I would end the conversation on the phone telling the contact that I am an Indian, from India, only visiting the US for a few months.
So much for jumping to conclusions. It is good to exercise restraint – and take your time to “find out more” without appearing too curious or inquisitive!
(Walter Vieira is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India (FIMC). He was a corporate executive for 14 years and pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across the globe in four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books; a business columnist; visiting professor on marketing in the US, Europe and Asia. His latest books are "5 Gs of family Business" with Dr Mita Dixit and "Marketing in a Digital/ Data World" with Brian Almeida. He now spends most of the time in NGO work.)