By Gil Gonzalez
Random Writers: Write about whether you ask enough questions or do you settle for what you know?
I once read this book on interpersonal communications called “So What’s Your Point?” There was one line in the book that really stood out for me.
Be 100% responsible for what you’re saying and 100% responsible for what is being said to you.
In other words, ask questions and don’t assume.
My wife hates that I read that book.
You see, I’m the type of person that will ask the same question three or four different ways. Not only do I want to make sure I am on the same page with a person with whom I may be having a conversation, I also need to make sure I am on the same line and using the same ink. I am notorious for saying, “So just to be clear…” or “So for the purpose of clarification…”
Yes, I am the person in the room that prolongs the meeting and extends the conversation. I’m that guy.
However, I carry that burden with pride.
Perhaps it’s a function of where I work. In the IT industry, it seems we spend 90% of our time on calls or in meetings. Add in the hurdles accents – we work with a lot of people both from and in Asia – and it’s no surprise that I often ask people to either repeat themselves or clarify what they mean. All it takes is one experience where a person says ‘A’ and you understand ‘B’ for the extra redundancy to be justified.
Taking a step back from my career specifics, I don’t see why I would want to do it any other way. We live in a world where we can’t take anything at face value anymore. Photos, video, and audio recordings can all be manipulated from their original states. Politicians and attorneys speak in the language of vagueness and confusion so as to not be held accountable for whatever it is they may or may not have said. Even everyday conversations with friends can slip into the trap of indirect meaning, where we try to couch what it is we’re saying so as to not offend or get into trouble.
With that being the norm – well, my norm at least – I feel the prudent thing to do is to ask additional questions. I want to make sure I am perfectly clear on what it is I am hearing and understanding. As the book I read suggested, I want to be 100% responsible for what is being said to me.
I know my self-diagnosed O-C-D plays a part in my craziness, but so, too, does my desire to get it right. Ironically, the O-C-D kicks in because my A-D-D often makes my mind drift and lose track of the conversation. So the, “I’m sorry. Can you repeat that again?” question may not be so much a matter of me being thorough as it was a response to the fact that 10 seconds earlier I was being lazy and stopped listening.
So to be clear, asking questions is a good thing, right? I mean, you want to be sure you understand what you’re hearing, correct? Just double-checking. I just want to make sure you and I are on the same page. Cool?
Okay. I’ll stop now.