"Don't speculate when you can ask."
Makes sense? Agony of being in suspense over something is far more painful than any risk involved in looking straight into other person's eyes and asking directly. How often we do this? Not many times especially when we must.
Speculation is best left to things that are really unpredictable. But, otherwise, there are many things where are we are better of asking than to speculate.
Why don't we ask our customers how we are doing? We can keep it specific or general. Isn't this question better than speculating what customer may be thinking? It is possible that when we ask this question, the other party may give a less than honest and less than completely true answer. That's their problem. We have got atleast something to work on. We have plugged some holes to protect ourselves from being asked in the future, "you never asked us if we were satisfied."
Once we get the answer to initial question, we can analyze answer to see if it is true or false. If we want to probe further, we already have successful precedence of having asked the question. Second time should only be easier. We can also document and share it with the other party. Best way to put such thing in writing is to start off with something such "thanks for taking time to answer few of our questions. This memo describes our understanding of your answers. Please review and let us know if there are any corrections or clarifications.". Notice the tone here. We are saying that we may be wrong. That's okay. We are giving the other party an opportunity here to correct themselves and also us. It is not all unusual that once you present your understanding, story normally only grows.Seeing in writing makes the other party really think, if they said all this. What are the implications? Many times, it only becomes easier and clearer once you start this questioning process.
What if people simply do not answer your question? That is not the best situation but there are some measures you can take to reduce the anxiety coming from uncertainty. You can gently coax the person to answer your questions. If nothing works, just explain to them the importance of getting answers to your burning questions and that in lieu of their answer tell them what you think is the answer and make sure that the other party clearly understands that you would proceed on the basis that unless they correct, you would take your answer as their answer. This is better than being totally in dark and waste your time and energy in speculation. This is like making a path when one does not exist. You do not know if it is the right path but at least you have none to say that it is not the right path.
We have probably been penalized more often for not asking timely questions than asking questions. We have to make sure that questionsare pertinent to our objective at hand. If we are not discretionary in asking questions, we only come across as nosey and an insensitive AH. So, stay away from questions that are not safe, potentially offending, private, upsetting etc. On other legitimate topics, take out your AK-47, pop in a magazine with enough rounds to kill all your doubts, and fire on - questions, I mean.
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