What’s Behind the Answer?

You’re gathering information for a project and ask several employees for input. They give you the information that you requested, and you integrate their responses into your project presentation.

But what happens if you make a decision based on that information and your conclusion is wrong? You may go back to the employees in search of clarification (“I thought you said x”) and it turns out that yes, they said “x”, but “y” is also integral to the equation.

When you clarify after the fact, it’s too late. If you had probed further when you first asked for input, you would have realized that “x” was incomplete or even inaccurate.

When a question isn’t cut and dried, you need to dig deeper to make sure that you receive complete answers. Your personal bias may sway your conclusion if you don’t probe enough. In effect, you need to know what’s behind the answer, not just the answer itself.

Here are five simple ways to clarify answers:

+ Ask open-ended questions (those that don’t result in a yes or no answer).
+ Repeat the question using different language.
+ Ask the person what his or her understanding of your question is.
+ Ask additional questions that go deeper.
+ Ask “What have I not asked that is important to this discussion?”

Being a better questioner will make a big difference in your results. In this era of rushed, on the fly conversations, there is a greater chance of miscommunication. Learn what’s behind the answer so that you don’t end up with an inaccurate conclusion.

Have a great day!

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