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Ask Me No Questions, And I’ll Tell You No Lies

July 18, 2022 By The Siren Of Support Leave a comment

Little kids ask questions to learn. Remember the “why” phase? I do. Teens learn to not ask for permission, but rather for forgiveness. But only if they get caught of course. As adults, we question everything. Our children, and our spouses, customers, employees and even our superiors are the recipients of what seems to be a never ending list of questions.  

Asking for things or information is a necessary part of life, however, asking questions can be outright terrifying.

Will the answer be “no”? Personally, I have never gotten down on one knee and popped the question, but I would assume the fear of rejection lingers under the surface. What if the response is a blatant lie? “I didn’t eat the candy”! As the toddler’s face is smeared with melted chocolate bar. When the response to the question is a question, “Did you check to make sure the tires were all the same size before replacing the transfer case?”, “Why does it matter?” When the simple, “Where do you want to go for dinner?” backfires and leaves you with more unknowns than you started with, a hungry belly, and an irritated partner. 

I regretfully admit that I am bad at asking for things. Whether it be something to satisfy a need, or asking for help. I find it easier to climb the shelves at the store than seek out a worker that is taller than my measly four foot eleven and a quarter. I don’t like asking a question when I know the answer is likely “no”. On Saturday, I sent off a text message to my now adult daughter to ask if she was coming home. I knew the answer was “no”, I knew that hanging out with the boyfriend was way more fun than a night with Mom. I asked anyway, received my “no”, and went on about my business. However, child of mine, if you are reading this – visit your Mommy!

How do we as employees, employers, customers and people in general get better about asking good questions that give us the answers that we desire? How do we ensure that we are being effective and efficient in our requests? 

  • Ask better questions to get better answers: “Did you reset the shift adapts with the appropriate scan tool?” The answer is usually “yes”. Our technicians have no proof that the action was actually completed. However, if asked in an open ended fashion, the person on the receiving end is forced to provide a more in depth response. “Tell me how you reset the shift adapts, and what tool did you use?” This allows for a conversation, the truth and a potential learning experience.
  • Only ask questions that matter: We’ve all been there, or at least seen the meme of the guy at the parts counter who asks what engine is in the vehicle and you simply are looking to purchase wiper blades. Inquiries that don’t match the end goal leave room for confusion, or even worse damage your credibility as a professional. 
  • Avoid asking questions that cause defensiveness: Once a person’s wall goes up, you will have a heck of time breaking through to them. When requesting information or explanations, make it seem less of an interrogation by not allowing blame to creep into the question. “I noticed you were late three times last week, is there something going on that I can help you with?” Rather than, “You were late all last week. This is unacceptable. What are you going to do to make sure you get to work on time?” You will get honesty and build relationships by addressing issues as if you are part of the solution.
  • Be prepared to hear “NO”: The answer isn’t always “yes”. Be ready to compromise on the situation. Jeff may not agree to stay an hour later today, but rather than be offended from the rejection, ask when he is able to. Do not assume that he is not a team player, he may be his mom’s only ride to the doctor appointment today. 
  • Only ask if it’s not a tell: Do you require that Saturday hours are worked occasionally? Is it a requirement that safety glasses and steel toed boots are worn on the shop floor? If something is a condition of employment, or fundamental to the organization, alluding to the option to opt out will only cause frustration and blurred expectations.

If you are one that has never struggled with asking a question in the best way possible, I envy you. However, one step at a time I get better and continue to learn and grow. 

With that, I must go ask what the nine year old wants for breakfast. My question today will be, “Eggs, cereal or pancakes?” Not “What do you want to eat?” As I’m sure the answer would be breakfast brownie pizza if I left it that open ended. 

Wish me luck, I sure hope the answer is cereal.

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