Career / Personal Development
As an introvert, I often need extra time to process a question and my answer in my head before I speak. Years ago, I learned a secret trick to buy myself more time. I would say:
“Interesting question, why do you ask?”
This stall tactic has actually turned into a critical thinking tool. So much of critical thinking involves asking questions to dig further, understand backgrounds, and reveal assumptions. Additionally, the question “why do you ask?” helps you gain clarification about the intent of the question. Is the question loaded? Do you understand the question properly? Do you have accurate information to answer the question? Each of these issues can be uncovered by the phrase “why do you ask?”
I thought about sharing several success stories from when I’ve asked this very question, but there were too many from which to choose. However, what sticks in my mind is a time when I didn’t use this tactic.
I was meeting with a client who asked me “What do you think about Strengths Based Leadership?” Without pausing to consider the reason I was being asked this question, I confidently responded “It’s junk!” (I didn’t use those words exactly, but I might as well have.)
The look of surprise on my client’s face will forever be burned in my memory as I quickly scanned the bookshelf behind her desk and spotted several books on the topic. Oops! Now, my opinion is still the same (and that’s a a whole other blog post), however had I known the context of the question before I answered I would have had a more eloquent and appropriate answer.
Let’s replay the moment using my 6-word secret weapon:
Client: What do you think about Strengths Based Leadership?
Me: Interesting question, why do you ask?
Client: We’ve been incorporating the core concepts into our training and development program and it’s very important for any new training we add to our offerings.
Me: I see. Tell me more about what you mean by core concepts.
Client: We believe it is important to build confidence and recognize the strengths of our team.
Me: I agree. Do you believe areas for development are just as important (for example, in critical thinking)?
Client: Yes, absolutely.
Me: Excellent, well with the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal assessment we not only address each individual’s strengths but also explain where he/she can address weaknesses. In addition, we provide tools and a framework for building those skills.
Client: Wonderful. Sign us up!
However, that isn’t how the conversation went. Instead, I had to struggle to explain my strong statement and find commonality in the concepts after I misunderstood the intent of her question.
My assumption was that this client wanted my professional opinion. What she truly wanted was to explain how important it was to not only address areas for development, but also discover each person’s unique strengths. If I’d simply used my 6-word secret weapon I would have saved myself a bit of stress in that moment.
What is your secret weapon for discovering more information?
Breanne Potter is currently a Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens (http://talentlens.com) and is focusing on helping organizations develop their employees' critical thinking skills via the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal assessment and development tools. Breanne also authors AssessmentBuzz.com (formerly thembtiblog.com).
Pearson TalentLens develops and delivers scientific assessments for employee selection and development that increase workforce performance. With more than 80 years of experience in the employee assessment field, Pearson offers award winning products such as the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal, Bennett Mechanical comprehension Test, and the Golden Personality Type Profiler, and has a global presence with offices in seven countries. Its clients include half of the Fortune 500, expanding small businesses, and all organizations that make identifying talent and unlocking employee potential a top priority.
She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and her Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology. Beginning her career as a recruiter in St. Louis, MO, Breanne experienced the fast-paced excitement of high volume recruiting in a strong economy, as well as the challenge of recruiting top IT professionals in a highly competitive and demanding market. In addition to her role as a recruiter, Breanne began revamping the selection process in her organizations to standardize processes and improve selection success. Throughout her Human Resources career, she has had significant experience in team building, leadership development, training, conflict resolution, and organizational development. She previously worked for CPP, Inc and consulted with organizations using MBTI, TKI, FIRO-B, Strong Interest Inventory, and CPI. Breanne is a member of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), Association for Psychological Type International (APTi), and the Society for Human Resource Managers (SHRM).
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