When I was traveling a few weeks ago, my husband and I were flying different airlines. When I got to baggage claim, I realized his flight wasn’t coming to my terminal. I asked the woman at the information desk where to find his airline. She told me it arrived at a terminal three miles away.
Flustered, I was about to head back up the escalators to find the shuttle when she continued, “May I ask why?”
I gave her my details.
She said, “This is just a suggestion, but since you’re renting a car, you might want to each take the shuttle to the rental place and meet there. It’ll save you a trip.”
She could have just answered my question and let me barrel off. Instead, she took the time to ask for information and to offer some clear thinking when I was frazzled from the flight.
That was a good question.
There’s a lot of discussion and research available about how to move from positions (I have to do this) to interests (what am I really after – might I get there in a way that gets you there too?).
Asking “Why?” may be your best move.
When we’re considering regulations, we might tend towards “I need this type of documentation.”
Why? Maybe because we’re after a piece of data. Or maybe we’re trying to be sure something that happened once doesn’t happen again, but we’ve put an overly complicated system to place to guard us from that possibility.
Asking “why?” makes you consider your underlying interests and your reasoning.
We had a process in place that had been unquestioned for years, until someone called me about it. “Why do you do this thing first, then the other? Why can’t they happen at the same time?”
I asked and it turned out that our system was set up when two functions were in separate locations and one side was routinely circumvented. So the other side said “you have to get their approval first, then ours.”
Now that everyone is on the same software, both functions are tracked in the same system. There was no longer a need for the sequencing, but the process hadn’t changed.
Until someone asked “why?”
It took us 3 minutes to make that change.
That was a great question.