Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Answering Questions

I apologize if this ramble makes no sense…it is half-vent, half-personal goal oriented. :)

Something I am working on personally is providing answers to the questions I am asked. In conjunction with this, I need to make sure I am ASKING questions in a manner which leads to the “ask-ee” providing the information I need.

How many times have you encountered this situation:
Me: “When will we have that document?”
Person A: “I have soccer practice after work, and tomorrow I have to give blood. So I probably won’t get to it today.”

That isn’t helpful at all. I didn’t ask for their schedule, I asked a simple question that needed a simple answer.

Flipside - I have a tendency to provide too much commentary around a question, and sometimes the question gets lost. I have to actively re-read my emails and other documents to make sure I am not losing the whole point of the thing in flowery language. It happens. For example….

Me: “We have 16 of XX product and they take 7 days to ship. Do you think we can get the yellow boxes in before the blue ones? I think it is possible to get an extension on XYZ delivery.” Ok, that is a bad example…but the point is to show you that I often mix information up with a question and people forget what I am asking. In those instances….it is totally my fault. I am working on that, growing as a person and all….

I encounter situations all the time where, in my head, I think “You didn’t answer my question”. I am now trying to step back and look at what my question really was. Did it get lost in a mass of superfluous info? Did I not ask it in a way that could be answered concisely? If I ask something pretty simple like “what color is your tie”, however, and I get “my jacket makes it look like a silk fabric, but really it is cotton”…I have to wonder if that person was even listening. You know you have encountered similar situations.

Argh. It drives me nuts. I didn’t ask you what the fabric was, I asked you what color it was. It is sort of related, but didn’t answer my question! Bah!

Most of the time, this issue arises when the person didn’t really read or hear what you asked. OR, you didn’t ask a question in a way that could be clearly answered.

Another example of where this is incredibly evident is in politics. You never witness a politician directly answer a question. Brian Williams could ask a random congressperson “Do you think we should provide healthcare to everyone?”. That person most likely would come back with something along the lines of “health insurance isn’t a right” or “everyone deserves to have insurance”. Neither of those answers ANSWERED the question. We aren’t talking about health insurance…Williams asked about healthcare. These are two different things, yo!

Politics is always about pre-packaged answers, possibly re-worded to “fit” the question. That is lame. Lame...and sadly...standard.

I am making it a personal goal to ask questions clearly, provide concise answers, and be more direct in communication.

What would you fix in your day-to-day communication?


Misty said...

No more excuses! As a teacher, I get excuses all the time as to why homework wasn't done. Did you know that it takes ALL night to have baseball practice? Or that a parent doesn't have time to initial one paper during the whole evening? ARGH!

Anonymous said...

Have you thought about just...um...asking the question you'd like to have answered?

Beckbee said...

@ Shine - YES. I do that...most of the time. Haven't you ever asked a straight forward question and received a response that didn't really ANSWER the question?

http://abebedorespgondufo.blogs.sapo.pt/ said...

Good blog.

Antje Spethmann said...

The meaning of the communication is the response it elicits. That means, according to linguists I've read, anyway, that if you're not getting the responses you expected, you should probably rephrase the question... and, it leaves you in control of communication. Helps in relationships too...
For instance, I've been told that mentioning that the trash should be taken out is not the same as asking someone to take said trash to the curb.....