Key 55. Ask ‘Why?’

It is astonishing how often we try to guess what a person is thinking, and then get ourselves into trouble because of it. If, however, we put our mind-reading aside and simply ask the person what’s going on, we can fare a lot better.

If, for example, someone ignores you, don’t try to guess why. Ask why.

‘You seem to be avoiding me. If that’s the case I would like to know why, because if I have made a mistake or offended you I would like to know. I might even be able to take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again with someone else.’

That’s good because you are asking the person for advice. People love giving advice. And you could discover that the person has not been ignoring you. Or, they have been ignoring you for good reason! Either way, you have information to digest.

It’s scary to ask for feedback, but it’s helpful. And assertive.

Let’s say you have not been given a promotion. Instead of trying to guess why you have missed out, ask. ‘Boss, you have not given me a promotion in forty-five years. What do I need to do to get one?’

Asking why can give surprising results. Ask your questions diplomatically and with thought. Remember, the idea of being assertive is for both parties to feel respected.

And remember another key: politely but insistently ensure your question is answered.

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