Sometimes when we are not able to access the information we are seeking, it’s because we are asking the wrong question. It can be a simple fix, once we realize it, but sometimes we are slow to see the error of our process.
One of the stories in our family soundtrack is not about our family at all, but about a family friend. Trent was diagnosed early on with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Trent is one of the loveliest people we know. He is kind, funny, gifted, loyal, and all-around beautiful. He has accomplished much and continues to grow in his understanding of social clues. But, there was a time when Trent missed way more than he caught, creating some pretty funny stories—especially when he tells them himself.
When he was 8 or 9 years old, he went to his pediatric well-check. After doing the basic assessments, the doctor asked, “So Trent, how have you been sleeping?” Trent looked at the doctor with utter disbelief, looked back at his mother with an expression that said, “Can you believe this guy?” and then answered the doctor, slowly so he could understand: “In a B E D!”
The doctor referred to his notes which included Trent’s diagnoses and rephrased, “Good, good. Now, Trent are you able to sleep through the night?”
I think about how often we ask the wrong question when we are looking for information. For example, we ask our search engine “How to pay rent?” In return, we find suggestions such as getting a second job and clipping coupons. This is no help at all for someone on a shoestring budget already working two jobs. A better search criteria would be “Affordable apartments near me,” or “Housing assistance for retirees.”
It happens in other situations too. We send emails asking, “Who is available to work on Saturday?” and the replies are nonexistent. Rephrasing the question to “Who can flex and work this Saturday and take next Friday off?” or “Who is looking for overtime work?” There are lots of examples.
- “How can I fix my kid’s Problem Of The Day?” can be rephrased to, “How can I meet my child’s needs best?”
- “What is wrong with you?” becomes “Can you tell me more about what’s going on today?”
- “Why are you doing that?” will yield better results if stated as, “Would you share your reasoning with me?”
Not getting the answers you need? Maybe the solution is in asking a different question. What about you? When has something like this affected your productivity?