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When You Need Answers... Be Careful How You Ask For Them

By Laurie Weiss

Especially when you are in a situation where a misstep can cause real problems...

1. Before you ask anything, gather as much information as you can about a situation by careful observation.

* Listen to the topics that are discussed

* Notice topics that are not discussed.

* Pay attention to nonverbal clues -- posture, tone of voice

* Notice relative power positions of the people present in the situation -- even furniture placement and seating arrangements.

2. Think about what additional information you need to better understand the situation. Look for the missing pieces.

3. Use your intuition. What is your hunch or guess aboutwhat is going on? What do you wish you knew?

4. Ask questions only when you are truly unsure of what the answers will be.

5. Listen carefully to the answers that are presented to you.

* Give it your full attention.

* Ask clarifying questions only if you cannot understand the answer you are hearing.

* Wait until the answer is complete before you comment on it.

* Treat everyone with respect - avoid being condescending in any way.

6. Never ask a question when you are already sure of the answer. The only reason to do this is to catch someone else doing something wrong. If you do this, others will sense it and feel resentful or put down even if you think you are being subtle.

7. Be willing to be vulnerable. Take responsibility for your own mistakes or lack of information. In this situation,saving face (your own) is not nearly as important as helping others save face!

8. If you feel attacked or challenged by the answer to one of your questions, do not defend yourself. Respond by stating your understanding of what was said. Ask if your understanding is accurate.

9. Keep asking questions until you are sure you understand what you need to know about the situation, and as long as others are willing to respond to you.

10. Thank everyone who is present.

Excerpted from Lesson 16 of "The Integrity Course," Copyright 2005 Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.

About The Author
Laurie Weiss, Ph.D. is an internationally-known executive coach, psychotherapist, and author.

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