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  • Wendy Lynch and Clydette de Groot

From uncertain to clear with this one simple question

Remember as a kid when you first heard pig-Latin? You knew the other kids understood each other, but until you figured out the rules, you stayed in the dark.

Usinesses-bay ave-hay imilar-say allenges-chay.

From acronyms to cultural norms to hierarchies, each work setting has known-but-often-hidden meaning behind what people say. On top of that, each person has his or her own interpretation of a word or phrase.

Your client says “I’d like see progress made soon.”

You think: I’ll provide an emailed bullet-point list of activities next week.

She thinks: A presentation of actual milestones achieved by Friday

Your client says “We want an effective training program.”

You think: a scientifically-proven intervention.

He thinks: a program other businesses believe has worked.

When we consider all the opportunity for miscommunication, it’s a miracle that we understand each other as well as we do.

A simple question: How will you know?

In the Get to What Matters tool set How will you know is the Specifics Question. It moves the other person’s thinking to the specific criteria they will use to determine whether something is so.

In the examples above, we might ask the client:

So, I’m wondering, how will you know progress has been made?

So, just so I understand, how will you know a training program is effective?

The client likely has ideas of what they mean by the words they have just used. This question gives them time and space to articulate what constitutes “progress” or “effectiveness.” By exploring what they mean, both of you get clearer about expectations, so they can be defined and agreed upon.

The question How will you know is purposefully open so it gives a person’s brain room to wander where it needs to go.

The next time you THINK you know what a person means (success, client-focused, evidence-based), take a moment to ask the specific question: How will you know it is….?

Ou-yay oth-bay ill-way e-bay ad-glay uo-yay id-day.

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