Jan 15, 2015

One Small Word that will Extraordinarily Change Your Life


If you live life with even a small amount of intention, you will always be looking for meaning in everything you hear, do, and say. Because of this, you ask questions. Different questions elicit different responses. Questions that include the words “Who” and “What” are looking for identification. Questions that include “When” are looking for an answer in time. “Where” requires a reply that includes a specific place. “Why” is an interesting question for several reasons. First “Why” demands rationalizing the answer with reasons and excuses. Second, it solidifies a person’s stance. They must defend their position like an army defending their fortress…down to the last person. Yet, “Why” is a question that you hear people ask more than any other. In business, it may the Manager that asks, “Why didn’t you get the project done?” Or, the Sales Manager that asks the question, “Why didn’t you hit quota?” Outside of work, you find parents asking their teenager that was out past curfew, “Why did you stay out so late?” The husband asks the wife, “Why did you let the kids go to your mothers?” The wife asking the husband, “Why don’t you ever get home before dinner is ready?” Of course, the list can become endless, but you know the story. With the question “Why?” being used so much, you would think we all would have a better grasp on the world around us. Do you? Most people don’t, so they use more “Why?” questions and exacerbate the problem of trying to understand their world and become more and more frustrated.

There’s another question, though, that I haven’t considered with you. This, too, is a one-word question. Yet, it is so powerful that it holds the ability to extraordinarily change your life. You’ve heard this question many times. You’ve used it and not recognized the massive impact it can have on your relationship with another person, with a team or group of people, of an entire community, I’ll even venture so far out as to say your relationship with the entire world. That seemingly small, insignificant word is…

“How?” Yes, “How?” Let me share with you how “How?” will change your world. First, “How?” elicits the quality of a decision, because a person is required to give you their strategy on the way, or thought pattern, on which the decision was built. Unlike “Why?” that solidifies a person’s position and elicits excuses and reasons, “How?” causes a person to retrace their thought pattern and re-examine it for the quality of that thought process. By doing so, many times it loosens the person’s position if they recognize faults in that process. They may have an epiphany as they begin to share with the strategy they used and apologize right on the spot. I want to share with you a few short examples of what that looks like. I’ll use the example of teenagers that I previously used above because almost every person that is a parent can relate:

“Why did you stay out so late?” Instead, the question is, “How did you decide to stay out so late?” I must forewarn you, people are so used to being asked “Why?” they will attempt to give you the reasons and excuses. You kindly stop them and say, “I didn’t ask ‘Why?’, I asked, how did you decide to stay out so late?” This will require a little time to readjust from their prepared answer. There’s also a way to tell if they’re lying, but I’ll save that for now. They will think about the question and, after a bit of time, they will tell you their strategy. What’s so great about this is that you now have something tangible to work with. You can’t fix excuses and reasons. You can fix a broken thinking process or strategy. And, this works in every facet of life, especially if you’re a leader that really cares for your people and have a strong desire to help them.

Of course, I want to make note that this is just a very small excerpt from my new business communication training title Stealth Communication. I’m in the midst of putting together a special two-day session in the very near future. Without feeling any obligation, please send comments to me on any dates that would work for you in February and/or March. Please feel free to review my flyer on the event and let me know what topics you find most intriguing and any topics you think should be added for more value.

Creating life in forward motion,
Dr. Edward Lewellen