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Keep the Peace by Not Asking “Why”

Keep the Peace by Not Asking WhySometimes we work with individuals who tend to be a bit defensive. Any time we may question something they did, or didn’t do, they may get their back up and act very defensive or get angry. I have found that the question, “Why,” often pushes individuals who are more defensive a bit over the edge. Asking “why” makes individuals who tend to get more defensive feel threatened or as if their abilities are being brought into question.

Rather than use the word “why” for individuals who tend to be a bit more defensive, use other words such as “how” or “what” or “can you help me understand” to engage them in a conversation. For example, rather than asking,
“Why did you make that decision on the project?”

Ask instead:

“Can you help me understand how you arrived at the decision you made?” or
“How did you come to that decision?” or
“What approach did you take to arrive at the decision?”

For individuals who may be particularly sensitive and may take those questions in a way you didn’t intend, you might use more words to ask your question. For example,
“I probably would not have considered the path you took to resolve the problem, but I’m interested in how you got there and arrived at a decision to a difficult situation. Can you explain your approach to reach the decision you did?”