Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why ask why?

Every three-year old knows, ask "why?" and get information. Ask "why?" again and get more. Keep asking why and watch the folks around you rush to give you answers before the word can fall from your lips.

Then, something happens. The older we get, the more it is frowned upon to ask why. It's considered annoying...or presumptuous...argumentative...disrespectful... Asking "why?" can make us feel silly...or slow in thinking...frustrated...uncertain...

Ever asked a teacher why it was important to memorize a trivial fact? Or a manager why one task was suddenly more important than another equally burning issue? Or a partner why they chose a plan of action?

Sometimes "why?" can still net us great value. Mostly we hesitate to ask or receive the question as a challenge instead of an honest inquiry.

We stop asking "why?" along the way. Which means we become equally accountable for the decisions and choices in which we participate without question.

"Why?" is about clarifying and discussion. "Why?" examines choices. "Why" can support listening and learning at any age/stage.

Why discuss "why"? To take the sting out of the word and open the conversation.

1 comment:

Clear2Go said...

Maybe I am not old enough, but I still ask why. It gets me into trouble at times, but I don't mind that type of trouble -- I find it revealing.

Often, I find people try to 'insert' themselves between me and the individuals I am asking 'why', as if I am naive to be asking that question.

I don't see it that way. If you can't respond with a good reason why, especially if you are a leader or in a senior / executive position, that is a red flag for me and I'd rather know your answer is insufficient.

The final point I'd make, is that when you ask why, it is often more about how the individual answers the question as opposed to the answer itself. What was their initial facial reaction to the question? Their body language? Their tone of voice when responding. What did they say? What didn't they say?

-mike