As a project manager, discussion plays a crucial role. Certain days, I may have up to seven meetings. When the meetings are all done, I have to prepare meeting minutes and take action on the agreed task. Having an effective meeting is important. All of us dread the meetings that go on forever and with no outcome.
To get the information that we need, we have learned to ask “what”, “why”, “when”, “how” and “where”. From my experience, I have stopped using “why”. I have replaced “why” with either “what” or “how”.
Here is an example of a discussion where someone did “X”. Regardless of the outcome, we sometimes need to understand the justification behind the decision.
There are three ways to start a discussion.
“Why did you do X?”
“What do you intend to achieve by doing X?”
“How to get our intended results, by doing X, ?”
See the difference? By asking a “what” and “how”, the question points towards the action or the topic that is being discussed. If you are asking a “why” question, it is perceived as confronting the person. This put the person in a defensive mode. The discussion will quickly turn cold and goes nowhere.
It is not easy to have a mind switch by avoiding the use of “why”. I have personally struggled with it. It is better to go into a meeting prepared. Besides learning the facts, but also prepare some questions. The questions should not be confrontational but focus on the discussion point.
All of us cannot avoid meetings. But we can make the best of it.
Our working life is not a reality show where every week someone gets voted out. There is no need to work with the person anymore. Good or bad, we will be working with each other on a daily basis. Therefore it is important to keep the relationship professional and positive. The less confrontational we are, the more willing are people to work with us.