Ask “What” not “Why”

Ask "What" not "Why"

As a consultant, one of my favorite questions to ask my clients is "Why?" As in, "Why are you doing that?" Asking "why" can be an effective way of determining if a process is actually doing what is expected or needed.

But I recently came across an article that referenced the book Insightby Tasha Eurich, who suggests that a better question than "why" is "what." Eurich says "why" questions elicit defensive responses while "what" questions get to the heart of what we need to know. This is something I've done instinctively for years.

For example: Often when I ask a staff person, "Why are you doing that?" the response, quite honestly and fairly, will be "Because that's what I was taught to do."

If that's the answer I get, I'll follow with "What are you trying to accomplish?" I may get a more thoughtful answer. (Sadly, often the answer will be "I don't know, that's just what I was taught to do.")

So think about how you ask your questions. And remember that "why" may not get you to the answer, but "what" very well may.

Wes's Wednesday Wisdom Archives

The best ideas are stolen

October 13, 2021

The best ideas are stolen I don’t remember where I first heard it, but someone said …

The best ideas are stolen Read More »

It’s all about expectations

October 7, 2021

It’s all about expectations One of the most critical contributors to the success of a …

It’s all about expectations Read More »

Either you test, or your members will

September 29, 2021

Either you test, or your members will If I was forced to choose the single …

Either you test, or your members will Read More »

But are you really willing to change?

September 22, 2021

But are you really willing to change? When any organization is making a change in data management …

But are you really willing to change? Read More »

Two tips for data conversion

September 15, 2021

Two Tips for Data Conversion I’ve written a lot about data conversion over the years …

Two tips for data conversion Read More »

Who should “own” the database?

September 8, 2021

Who should “own” the database? One of the most common questions I get from my …

Who should “own” the database? Read More »

What makes you weird?

September 1, 2021

What makes you weird? When I work with clients on selecting a new association management system, one …

What makes you weird? Read More »

Why “AMS Consortiums” Don’t Work

August 25, 2021

Why “AMS Consortiums” Don’t Work About once a year I will get a call from …

Why “AMS Consortiums” Don’t Work Read More »

Your vendor will disappoint you

August 18, 2021

Your vendor will disappoint you I follow politics as a hobby. A past publisher from …

Your vendor will disappoint you Read More »

Learn how to lose

August 11, 2021

Learn how to lose “Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to …

Learn how to lose Read More »

Scroll to Top