• Knowing why it is I am doing what I am doing
  • Recognizing how the interaction of underlying factors and assumptions impacts our work
  • Asking questions to clarify “the why” beneath a request

Two things that parenting has taught me are; one, always ask questions and two, make as few assumptions possible. For instance, when my daughter asks where the scissors are, or can a toy get wet or, my favorite, can I see your phone, it is typically always a good idea to ask why. After a couple of submerged hatchimals (or other electronic toys/devices) or a close call with the dog almost getting a four-year-old grooming special, I rarely give one-word responses. 

It is important to always think through the entire project and ask any clarifying questions initially, to have a full understanding of the expectations and desired end result. For instance, when my daughter asks me for the scissors now, I ask two questions… What are you planning to cut and where are you going to be? By asking these two simple questions, I will know what her intent is (usually crafting), if she needs other resources (glue – leading to more questions, paper, tape, etc.) and where she will be (somewhere visible).  Sure, I could just assume that she will only be cutting construction paper, and that she will be in plain sight at the table, and that she’ll clean up any mess, etc. However… insert popular assumption meme here.  

Granted, not having a full comprehension of a request in the workplace will likely yield different consequences than the destruction of a toy or phone, or risking the wellbeing of the family pet. However, applying these same principals in a professional environment is every bit as crucial. This seems like a fairly easy concept to grasp and practice, right? Unfortunately, the practical application tends to be a bit more challenging. The natural tendency can be to focus only on the completion of a task as quickly as possible, assuming there are no unknown or undefined variables. This can become amplified when working in a stressful or deadline heavy environment. There are some situations where operating in this manner may yield the desired outcome, however, more times than not this will result in falling short of the expectations of the intended recipient/audience. Of course, some assumptions can be acceptable, so long as they are reasonable with little to no risk of impacting or changing the deliverables. However, it is always important to first analyze the request and potential underlying factors, ask the right questions, and to have a full understanding of all expectations and desired results. Taking the time to apply this principal will save time, reduce stress and confusion, and ultimately will help to ensure satisfaction.

Key words and phrases
Comprehend the information; Insight into the circumstance; Discern the meaning; Realize the importance; Grasp the significance; Perceive the implications; Make sense of the facts; Realize the situation

Opposite terms
Ignorance; Lack of understanding; Failure to comprehend; Miss the point


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