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 the president of Sauers Consulting Strategies. The firm consults with the front end of printing and related organizations across the U.S. Key focus areas include: sales growth, brand positioning, organizational communications, organizational strategy, and integrated marketing. Sauers is a national speaker and writes feature articles in global publications. He is also an adjunct university professor teaching leadership, communication, and entrepreneurship to business leaders. Sauers has been recognized as a thought leader in human behavior. He is a Certified Myers Briggs and DiSC Practitioner, as well as a Certified Marketing Executive. He is working on his Doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership and will achieve certification in Emotional Intelligence later this year. Sauers is author of the best-selling books: "Everyone is in Sales" and "Would You Buy from You?" 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