Below-the-Surface Thinking Begins with Why
Why Ask Why? No, it is not to try Bud Dry. (Note: that was a test to see how old some of you are and if you remembered that old commercial jingle.) So, you may now be thinking where I am going with this blog post. Good question. Today, I want us to focus on the "why" of what we do and ask others. In almost every encounter I have people talk about the "how’s" and "what’s" but they do not clearly articulate their "below-the-surface" why of—why they feel the way they do. How do we understand another person’s "below-the-surface" reason? It must begin with our asking good questions. Here is an example many of us can relate to:
When children are young they have the habit of asking "why?" Often, as parents, it is easy to become annoyed with the nonstop stream of questions. "Daddy, why is the sky blue?" "Why do I have to go to bed now?" "Why, can’t I have that toy?" "Why? Why?" You get the idea.
Why did we ever stop asking "why" questions? Most likely because someone told us to quit asking such questions and, over time, we just stopped. You see the simple question of "why?" teaches us, as parents, to better communicate with our children and teaches us, as adults, not to simply settle for a surface-level answer. As employees or employers, it allows us to get to deep-rooted issues that lie under the surface. Asking "why" makes us reach much deeper levels of understanding with others but, over time, many of us have become satisfied with surface-level answers of "how’s" and "what’s." Why? Most likely, when we got to a certain age we felt as if we did or should know it all. In other cases, we did not want to look dumb if we asked a "why" question. So, we just quit digging and quit asking. This is not good! Consider how our communication would be if we simply reverted to the use of why.
We would better understand our friends. We would better comprehend our family. We would be more effective in our communications at work. Why? We would truly take time to understand where another person is coming from. We would better understand a customer. You see, when you go below the surface and get to "why" it gets another person to open up and explain where they are coming from.
In the case of communications, one must be able to successfully explain his or her point of view to others. My favorite style of communications uses The 5 Why’s Communications Model, which is covered as an entire chapter in my "Everyone Is in Sales" book. By asking yourself or others "why?" approximately five times you will be able to reach the root or source of the question and gain real information and thus results. This method not only helps us to focus our conversations but to also gain a better understanding of others.
We all have a need to be understood, right? Why? Because I told you so. No, just kidding. In all seriousness, ask someone a series of "below-the-surface" why questions and see if you can get to their root reason. Just try it and see for yourself, but don’t ask me why.