Could you be more specific?



In a recent seminar I was leading I asked the question, “What kind of issues are you dealing with that might require some discipline”? One of the attendees answered, that they had an employee who was not getting along with a few of the other employees. I asked her to be more specific. She struggled for a few second with this and then stated that this person seems to “have it in” for a couple of the other employees. Again, I asked “Could you be more specific”? Her answer this time was that the employee was always complaining about one thing or another in regards to the other employees. I again had to ask her to be more specific. (at this point she was starting to get annoyed with me!)

After many times back and forth in this manner, we were able to pinpoint that the “problem” employee was bothered by the fact that the other two had developed a friendship and this person felt left out. The employees approach to deal with this was some passive aggressive behavior to undermine the friendship and to try to draw attention to mistakes made by the other employees.

When we began the dialog, the woman who brought this up was aware of the issues, but seemed unable or unwilling to get right to the heart of the matter in our conversation. I eventually made her give me very specific instances of things that had happened in her place of work.

When you go to a physician with “an issue” they will typically ask you a number of questions to help in their diagnosis of the problem. They are going through the same process I just described. The doctor does not want to prescribe a course of treatment that will not address the very specific problem. If you come in to the doctor and say that you are having pains in your stomach, they will ask a number of questions. They will want to know where exactly is the pain, left right, lower, upper abdomen. Is it constant or occasional. Is it a dull ache or a stabbing pain and so on and so forth.

At work, or for that matter, any relationship, it will behoove you (I love that word) to learn how to be very specific about your needs, your plans, your intentions, etc. I have to admit that hundreds if not thousands of times in my life, I have misunderstood what another person said or wanted because I did not ask, “Could you be more specific”?
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