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.

Ryan T. Sauers is president of Sauers Consulting Strategies. The firm consults with the front end of privately held printing and related organizations across North America. The areas of focus are: sales growth, brand positioning, organizational strategy, and integrated marketing (with an emphasis on social media). Sauers speaks at many national events and writes feature articles in global publications. He is an adjunct university professor teaching leadership and entrepreneurship. Sauers is also the author of the best-selling book "Everyone is in Sales" and the newest book "Would You Buy from You?" Please visit:
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  • Bob Prints

    I love this. Why, is something I need to think about. Thanks for the ideas.

  • Kelly Mallozzi

    This is a great post Ryan. And I totally remember the Bud Dry ads! Keep asking why!

  • John

    This is great Ryan. Your followers could be the new "GenWhy?". Sweet Right?

  • Melissa Sienicki

    Ready to put the 5 Why’s Communications Model into action. Thanks, Ryan!

  • Susan Beyer

    Enjoyed this blog, Ryan! You’re so right. I think you might also appreciate Philip Beyer’s (SYSTEMIC SUCCESS) "Peeling The Onion Using the 5 W’s", that blog that was published here in Aug 2011. Great minds! :) Thanks for the good read! … Susan Beyer