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Ask Questions. Tell the Truth.

Today’s Your Turn Challenge is to teach something that I do well. I choose “Ask the difficult questions and be honest about your opinions.” This comes in most handy at work. Here are my tips:

  1. Grow older –¬†everything about telling the truth and asking the difficult questions is easier the older you get, at least in my experience.
  2. Pay attention to that frisson of unease or alertness that tells you you’re on to something.There is always a moment in a meeting or even out with family where you might think, “That sounds a little cock-eyed.” Trust that instinct.
  3. Choose your words thoughtfully. If you’re going to ask probing questions or voice an unpopular opinion, don’t start with phrases such as “That won’t work.” That’s the nuclear option. You might have to use it as a last resort. Try other phrases first. Maybe something like “Walk me through that. We haven’t been able to do that in the past because of XYZ. What’s changed?”
  4. Know that if you have the question, someone else has the question, too. Asking is a community service.
  5. Sometimes you’ll bomb. You’ll piss off someone important, you’ll be too abrupt, or you’ll hurt someone’s feelings.
  6. Apologize if you need to. Don’t do it automatically though. Apologies should be reserved for having embarrassed someone in public. That’s no good. Don’t apologize for pissing someone off if your position was respectfully communicated.
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