‘Why’ is the new magic word

August 19th, 2015

Colorful spotlights on stage

CRANIUM Point: Relevance not meaningless work
Communicate how each job fits into a larger mission. Ensure the fit of each job to the team.

Miscommunication is soooo natural.  There is just no way to always accurately describe the rich complexity of everyday life with words even if you accept that there are a million words in the English language.  Just about every word in the dictionary has multiple definitions.  How do you know which one is applicable in this moment? There are regional differences in dialect.  Throw in all of the non-verbals and it seems like the deck is really stacked against effective, clear communication.

There is, however, an almost universal trick to this.  The magic word is ‘why.’  If you ask Joe to make coffee, he might get to it after he adds the finishing touches to the report on his mind since that obviously seems more important than your coffee fix.  If you give him the why, a really important person is arriving in 5 minutes and you need help finishing the spread so it’s just right, Joe will know to shift his priorities instead of barging in with a pot of coffee in the middle of your presentation.

As you teach others new material, lead others in a project, or express your opinions to coworkers or family members, be sure to include the “so what?” Explain the “why” of what you are sharing as well as the “how.”

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