Ask for Clarity
Updated: Apr 17, 2021
If I were to ask you about your definition of transformation, would it be the same as what the person sitting next to you might say? Transformation to one person may be an immense change, a 180-degree shift in another direction, while to another it may mean the smallest notable difference. And what if I were to ask what success looks like for you, would it be the same as your peer, friend or partner? Our upbringings, cultures, experiences are what define our views, perspectives, and ideas of what we want things to look like when we work towards them or achieve them.
Actively listening may help us refine our ideas, show us other possibilities we had not thought of, or reinforce what we know to be our way of seeing it. The next time someone says something like they want to improve their time-management, or they want to be successful, surprise them, change it up a bit. Rather than telling them what they need to do and giving advice, pause and ask them what it means? Give them an opportunity to define it for you, and themselves - you will be surprised at what happens. I can almost guarantee they will be surprised you even asked and are interested in listening, then they will start to think about it and answer. Three things will happen: First, you will have helped someone put words and descriptions to what they really mean and would like to see; secondly you will learn about other definitions of something you may have thought differently about; and finally, you will have engaged them in conversation really understanding what they mean and able to respond in a more knowledgeable way. Just ask them, what does that mean to you? or what does it look like?
When teaching about active listening, questions, and perspectives, I constantly reinforce the importance of asking for definitions. We should never assume we know what the other person is thinking or actually means if we do not take the time to ask. Every person may choose a commonly used word to describe a situation, a goal or particular challenge; the definition will be the same in the dictionaries, but the way we apply it in our lives and act on it, what it actually means to us, that will be different from one individual to the next.
Just like you have your definition of what success might look like when you achieve it, I might have another way of seeing success; we must always remain open to listening and asking about other's ideas and views. The words we use may be similar but when we actually put it into practice it looks completely different from one person to the next. It’s what makes us unique and human. Ask away!