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June 22, 2011

From the Mouths of Babes: Why “Why” Is Critical for Effective Communication

AviMy 16-month-old daughter, Avi, asked me “why” for the first time last weekend.

I asked her to step down from standing on a railing where she could easily fall, and sure enough she turned to me inquisitively and said, “Why?”

I was fully unprepared to answer.  After all, she’s just started talking and stringing words together.  I thought I had some time before the questions began, so I pulled out the tried-and-true response, “Because I said so.”

I know this won’t be the last occasion she asks “why.” It was a great learning moment for me, and I appreciate her curiosity.  After all, it was I who was the precocious child who asked a lot of questions that drove adults crazy.  It’s payback time, I’ve been told.

I was sharing this story with a colleague, Frank Oswald, who shared this with me:

“I love that story. Makes me wonder: Is 'why?' innate or learned?"

Makes me wonder more: Why do so many leaders forget what hard-wired humans need when communicating?

I think it’s a brilliant question.  I have my thoughts, and would appreciate your perspective.  Just drop me a note in the comments below.

I’ll share the responses in an upcoming blog post.

In the meantime, what are you working on where the “why” – the context – is of critical importance for your task or project to succeed?

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