Save Time: Ask the RIGHT Questions!

Monday, July 28, 2014


My daughter Sabrina is five years old and will be starting Kindergarten in the fall. Over the weekend, I purchased a shower curtain with a map of the United States; each state has a picture of a distinctive state quality on it. When asked if she knows where we live, she replied, “Vancouver, Washington.” I then asked if she could point to Washington on the map, she pointed to South Dakota. Before I could tell her that she was a few states away, I realized she was pointing to George Washington’s picture on Mount Rushmore. Sabrina did not answer the question incorrectly; it was I who was not specific enough in the way that I asked my question!

This made me take a step back and think about the efficiency of my questions. I spend hours on end every week thinking about reducing input, increasing output, and eliminating waste, but asking the questions necessary to get the answers I am looking for on the first try, would save effort, energy, and frustration on my part as well as the person I am helping.

Be Specific
If you want an answer in the form of a number, ask a question where the answer can only be a number. I come from a family who owns a pizza restaurant, so I think of everything in terms of pizza. I could call a pizza restaurant and ask, “Are you guys busy tonight?” The answer to this question may be yes, asking, “How many minutes will it take for the pizza to be delivered?” prompts the answerer to give you the answer that you were looking for on the first try. Asking if there are any specials running tonight will probably result in a list with a bunch of information you will never use. Asking if there is a good deal to feed a family of four will narrow down the search results. 

Effective Communication

Make sure you and the person you are asking are on the same page. If I were to ask the question, “How long do you cook your pizzas?” the answer is eight minutes, but how likely is it that someone calls a pizza place just to obtain that useless knowledge? It just became the job of the question answerer to decipher what you meant to ask. Is that person wondering why it is taking such a long time for their pizza to be delivered? Do they want to run to the store before the driver gets there and are trying to guage time? Is that person wondering how long they should wait before leaving their house to come pick up their pizza? Maybe they are wondering if we can cook it for just a little while longer because they like the crust well done. Asking the question, “Can you please cook my pizza for an extra minute or two?” will yield an answer to your question in a much more efficient way.

Help the Person You Are Asking For Help

If you go into a situation with a whole list of questions, write them down ahead of time. You will want to make sure all of these are answered before you end the conversation. Sometimes an answer will send you on a tangent so writing down the questions ahead of time can help keep you on track. If you do not understand an answer, as the person assisting you to clarify their answer- until you do. Someone who knows why you are asking for help will be able to point you in the right direction, and possibly towards the correct answer. Rather than asking which toppings are on each pizza, I could start by saying I am allergic to tomatoes so that the person helping me can tell me about the pizzas that do not contain this ingredient.

Don’t Know What Your Question Is?

That’s ok, tell the person you are asking! If you call to say that you are feeding a large picky party, the person taking your order will be able to ask what they need to know to make sure you have what you need; they will probably ask and answer questions you didn’t even know you had! You may find out that you knew a lot more than you thought you did, but at the least they will send you away with some specific questions to ask of others so that you know how to move forward in your questioning.

Sabrina’s simple answer to what I thought was a simple question was harmless, but with credit card processing, questions are rarely simple and there may be more than one answer. TMC loves to answer these questions so if you find you’re looking in the wrong place, give us a call so you don’t find yourself running around in circles.   Great questions, combined with well thought out answers will help us all ask and answer questions much more efficiently!

Guest Blogger: Joanne Roberts 7/28/2014

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