Tough Questions Lead To Real World Answers - Grasshopper
Most of us are not conditioned to ask tough questions. "It's just not done in a polite society," may be the message you were weaned on, but that's often a bad formula when you need an actionable answer.
Real world answers are unvarnished. Tough questions are often needed to get down to that level. These questions are not meant to spare feelings; only to quickly show you the raw materials you have to build a solution. When time is critical, it's time to ask tough questions to get real world answers.
TQs are not the instrument to use when chatting in the deli line or anywhere else where the main purpose is to have pleasant conversation. Tough questions are specialized tools for those occasions when you need to cut through the layers of veneer to arrive at a real world answer.
Reminds me of a story . . . Many years ago I witnessed an interaction that made me uncomfortable. A woman was seeking help in solving a long-term problem that was causing her untold heartache. She had sought therapeutic help many times in the past but none that got her any relief. The therapist I watched attempting to help her was walking her down a gentle path but was getting nowhere with his line of questioning. A little back story: This woman was highly educated and wore it as a badge of honor and would counter almost every suggestion made to her with an indignant response as to why that wouldn't work.
I was uncomfortable with her responses but not as uncomfortable as to what I heard next. The therapist asked: "Are you comprehending the solutions I'm offering or are you just too stupid to get them?"
I was aghast! My "proper" upbringing was roaring to the forefront and my body was filled with discomfort. But then a magical thing happened - this woman took a deep breath and sighed her way to a state of relief that I had not witnessed in her before. Her whole body softened as though someone had stuck a pin in her and let the air out. As she relaxed, so did I and I'll never forget the genuine smile on her face as gentle tears dropped from her eyes.
Her body gave a real world answer to a tough question and afterwards she told the group she hadn't felt this light in years.
I would have never, before that day, considered using such a tough question in a counseling situation but there was no arguing with the real world results.
My friend, Hali Chambers is a big fan of author and seminar leader Caroline Myss who I once heard say, "To tell the truth, you have to be willing to be hated." Let me add to that by saying, "To get as close to the truth as possible, you sometimes have to ask tough questions and be willing to deal with the wrath" - a small price to pay to get real world answers.
Your polite conditioning is a tool that works most of the time; it just won't get the job done in tough situations. Once you recognize this, you'll be able to select the proper tool for the proper job and realize that "polite isn't always right."
All the best,
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