What has us jump to conclusions about WHY something is happening? So many of us make assumptions when we don’t ‘know’ all of the information or the perspectives of those involved in a situation. Instead of finding out what is really happening (facts), we finish our inner story based on what has happened in the past or what we expect to happen in the future.
A client of mine’s ‘boss’s boss’ copied them on an e-mail. My client didn’t read it carefully, assumed it was addressed directly to them, and responded right away. The reality was that the email was addressed to their boss, not them. Unfortunately, this action created friction and confusion with their boss to whom the email was addressed. Instead of slowing down and making the space to find out WHO it was directly addressed to, and WHY they were copied on the email, they just filled in the rest of the story in their mind and acted without finding out what was actually going on.
A mother gets single-word text messages from her teenage daughter from the bedroom upstairs and assumes her daughter is upset with her. Frustrated, she sends a snippy reply. Right after she hits send, she hears her daughter burst into tears upstairs, and when she goes in to find out what is wrong, she learns that her daughter fought with a close friend at school and was feeling betrayed by her group. Her mother’s assumptions and actions made her feel even worse. Instead of assuming WHY someone does what they do, FIND OUT. You may be surprised about what is going on for them.
Drawing false conclusions based on assumptions rarely facilitates the best positive outcome for ourselves or others.
Many of us were trained to NOT ask why as children. Our parents, working full time with multiple responsibilities and little downtime, often stifled our insistent ‘why’ questions. Most of my friend’s parents, and now my friends with their children say ‘because I said so’ when asked why. Not only can this stifle our curiosity as well as our ability to learn and contribute fully this also keeps us out of the present moment. I am grateful that my mother tried her best to answer every ‘why’ I asked AND even tried to find out the answer if she didn’t know.
What is it that keeps us from asking why? Do we think it makes us look uninformed? Do we think it will be a burden? What if our ‘why’ was never stifled? We wouldn’t feel embarrassed, or like we should ‘know’ when we don’t. We would feel empowered to ask and believe that we add value by asking ‘why’.
As a coach and organizational consultant, I use the question ‘why’ to learn what is behind the way things are done, and how people feel. From my perspective, it’s ALWAYS worth finding out what is happening instead of ‘assuming’ we know or even should know. Understanding the ‘why’ behind what is going on allows us to use the most current and accurate information and allows others to know that what is happening for them is important to us and being considered in our actions and decisions.
How can you use ‘why’ to finish the story?