Help Me Understand
Here’s a great tool for working with people who do things that don’t seem to make sense, or are different than what you expected.
At some point you are going to have people around you who will do things that make no sense, may seem totally random. At other times, you are going to face situations where people just say one thing and do something else, where they make commitment and don’t follow through or they just drop the ball on a responsibility. Or they just don’t do what they said they were going to do. Now how do you handle that? Because how you handle that is going to make all the difference in the world. It is easy to just get mad at people or confront them or accuse them of something, but that seldom resolves anything and often just makes things worse.
Now a few years ago I learned a phrase that has helped me immensely in dealing with those kinds of situations. Now when someone does something that doesn’t make sense or they really mess up or drop the ball, instead of confronting them, I ask a question. I say “Help me understand”. So, “Help me understand, I thought you said you were going to do this but it looks like you are doing that”, “Help me understand, I thought we discussed this and agreed to this but you are doing something else. Help me understand because what is happening right now does not make sense to me, what am I missing?”.
Now, taking that approach has several advantages. First of all it does not put the other person on the defensive because you are not attacking them, you are not accusing them of anything, you’re taking responsibility that maybe the problem is you. You didn’t understand, and gives them the opportunity to explain themselves. Now sometimes when they do that they give you new information that makes sense of everything and you can be very glad you did not accuse them of something, because whatever they’re doing might be the exact right thing in light of that new information.
Now other times, that person will realize that they aren’t doing what they should be doing and they are not following through, and they can take ownership of that. When they aren’t being attacked it makes it a lot easier for people to volunteer that they dropped the ball. Ok, it helps them actually be a responsible adult in that sense. So I encourage you to try it. The next time someone around you does something that makes no sense to you, don’t ignore it, but don’t attack it either. Don’t judge them. Sit down with them and say “Help me understand”, and see what happens.
I think you are going to be really surprised and really pleased with how it turns out, and you are going to end up with another tool in your tool belt for dealing with those kinds of situations.