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Why is Why Important?

Over the past few months, I have observed a trend within our society.  We seem to be afraid to ask “Why” when a difficult or unusual situation presents itself. For some reason, we accept the situation, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense and then start making assumptions as to the reason. I’ve seen this with customers, employees and even friends and family.

We all know what happens when we start making assumptions, and it is true (to a certain extent).  The “Why” is important as it impacts how we respond to the situation.

Here are a few examples of what happens when we don’t stop and ask Why:

  • A manager noticed that an employee had been really distant recently but she didn’t really worry as she assumed this was a due to the Lyme disease that the employee was recently diagnosed with.  The reality was that the employee was very upset with her manager due to a perceived lack of concern resulting in a very unhappy, unproductive employee who was spreading discontent throughout the team.  If the manager had spoken with the employee when she sensed the distance, perhaps this discontent could have been resolved before it impacted the productivity of the entire office.


  • The largest customer of a small manufacturing company calls and asks to have a meeting. Instead of asking why the customer wanted the meeting, the sales person sets it up for a week later and immediately begins to stress over the reason for the meeting. Was the customer going to fire the company due to the number of late deliveries? Did the customer want a price reduction due to some recent production issues? Was the sales person going to lose her job if she lost this account? By the time the day of the meeting arrived, the sales person wasn’t able to eat or sleep.  However, in the end, the customer expressed their desire to continue working with the company but wanted a commitment from the company to improve on-time delivery.

It is my belief that if your intentions are pure, you have the right to ask Why when a situation presents itself that seems to be out of the norm.  The question must come from a place of concern and not accusation; a place of learning, not an effort to gain the upper hand.

I’m not saying these conversations are always easy.  There may be things that are painful to share or difficult to hear. It may require you to shelve your ego and put yourself in the position of the person sharing the information.  What is this person trying to tell me?  Am I really focusing on what he is saying or am I preparing to respond to this perceived attack? If you don’t take the time to hear what is being said and listen with empathy, you could cause more harm than good.  But, if you really listen, you have the opportunity to create a stronger relationship.

In our current climate of heated debates, 10-second sound bites and need for frenzied activity, we are missing an opportunity to connect with each other.  If we view these situations as an opportunity to create deeper relationships, everyone wins.