It’s something we all do. We question. We ask “why”? However, while a good question, it’s not a question I find to be very helpful. When I’m asked “why” my thoughts go all over the place. I’m NOT a linear thinker and I find this question difficult to answer sometimes even though I know the answer. Actually, I should re-phrase that a bit and say I find it difficult to answer this question in a way that will be easy for the interrogator to understand my thought process and reach a common ground quickly. It’s a problem. To make it less of a problem (for me), when people ask me why, I re-phrase it in my head to ask “What needs to be true”? I started doing this with others and have been pleased with the outcome.
Hopefully, this is something that is useful to you or at least worthy of trying. I use the question “What needs to be true?” in the following scenarios:
- When someone says something isn’t possible.
- What needs to be true for it to be possible?
- When someone says they cannot complete something.
- What needs to be true in order for you to complete______?
- When someone says there is a problem.
- What needs to be true so this will no longer be a problem?
- When there is a goal or objective that needs to be met.
- What needs to be true for you to meet this goal/objective?
When I ask “What needs to be true?” it shifts the perspective a bit more towards action-oriented versus laundry listing. It also seems (to me) to be a bit more positive in general. The problem solving is already beginning. It’s not the final, end-all or be-all question to be sure but, it’s a more active start. Here’s how it works in a non-work setting:
Statement: I can’t organize my house.
What needs to be true so you can organize your house?
- I need to have time to dedicate to the task.
- I need to have a structure in place that will be easy to maintain.
- I need my family to agree to help organize and, then, maintain it.
- I need to have less stuff.
- I need a place to start.
From there, I can dig in a bit more:
- How much time do you think you need to start? Where is it in priority to other things you have going on?
- How much structure do you need to begin? What does “easy to maintain” mean to you?
- How do you go about getting the family to agree? What if they won’t or don’t?
- How much less stuff? How will you decide what stuff you need and don’t?
- What area of your house drives you the most insane?
I also like using this question when I put an idea out there for people to consider and they have a visceral, “That is NOT possible here”, response to it. Then, they tell me so many things that would need to be true and I can follow up with another one of my favorite questions: “What are you waiting for”?