Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"Asking 'Why?' Is The Key To Getting Useful Answers"

Children are great at asking that pesky little one-word question that contains just three letters question - why? When they don't understand something, they ask why? Why does something exist? Why does one event cause another? Why does one event cause something else to happen? And so forth.

Sometimes, they will ask another type of question about what something does that they don't understand, where something goes when they don't see it anymore, or when something disappears or doesn't happen in the way they expect that it should. Then when we answer their question, albeit with a truthful response that may not make sense to them, they come right back with another "why?" As we attempt to explain some more, this is followed by yet another "why?" At some point, we become frustrated at trying to explain and with their continuous string of "why?" responses and just answer "because." At the time it's the best we can do.

The point is, this is how they learn. It is tiresome to us sometimes, but it is effective.

As we look at our aging-in-place businesses, we need to be childlike in asking ourselves "why?" We should ask why we are doing something a certain way, why we are pursuing business that is not a good use of our time or resources, why we want to set a particular goal, why something is more important for to achieve than something else, or why something needs to have a higher priority - for instance. Keep in mind, that we need to provide real answers to ourselves. "Because" won't help.

When we get a call from someone looking for aging-in-place solutions - a renovation or assessment - we need to find out why they are interested in doing this. Why are they thinking of it now rather than at another time? Why did they seek us out and contact us? Why do they think we can help them?

If we decide to set an appointment with them and meet them at their home, there are plenty more "why" questions for us to ask. Some will be to ourselves, and some will be directed at them for an answer. We want to know why they chose this home for themselves, why they have continued living there (thinking this might reveal their intent in remaining and some underlying reasons why they are committed to staying in their home), why they think improvements that they are contemplating will enhance their lifestyle, and why they want the work done now as opposed to an earlier or later time.

As we look around, we might ask ourselves why they have done something a certain way, why they have chosen floor coverings or paint colors as they have, why they keep so much stuff in their home, and other questions that we will have to find gentler ways of exploring with them.

In short, the little word "why - which is the shortest complete sentence or question that exists since it doesn't require a subject or object and the verb is understood - is how we gather information about our clients and their situation so we can determine how to help them and make a decision about if we want to get involved. There are many other types of questions that we will want to ask, but the "why?" question is the foundation for our learning about their needs.


Steve HoffackerCAPS, C,E,A,C, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.