Steve Marr Blog

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Sep 14

That Wasn’t My Question!

Posted by: Steve Marr

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Most of us may become frustrated when a news commentator asks a political figure or the surrogates a question and receives a well-crafted response. Typically such an answer fails to reply to the question. While we can’t do much in these situations, we can improve our business communication.


I asked someone when they would be able to have some work completed for me and received a long-winded answer about their workload and all the circumstances they faced. However, they never told me when they would have the work finished. I followed up with “Tom that wasn’t my question. I asked when the work would be completed.”

I recently looked at a piece of equipment and asked the sales person several specific questions related to how the equipment worked. Several times I told the sales representative that the information I was receiving didn’t answer my questions. I could have easily become frustrated and walked out the door.

King Solomon wrote, “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” (Proverbs 18:13, NASB) One reason a person fails to answer a question is because they don’t carefully listen first. When customers ask questions, we need to be very careful that we hear what they have asked. Repeating or paraphrasing the question are good techniques to communicate to the customer that we have heard what they have asked and will respond appropriately.

The same issue exists when working with staff. I’ve had numerous experiences in which I asked a question of a staff member and received a great response.  Unfortunately the response was to a different question. Frequently I will respond by saying, “That wasn’t my question.” Then I wait for the answer to the question I asked. I remain quiet because I would like to determine whether the person heard and understood my question or whether they were trying to keep from answering it.

I know some people simply ignore circumstances where they don’t get a concise response to a specific question. When we allow this to occur, we don’t obtain the information we need. Furthermore, it lets somebody inappropriately off the hook.

Develop the habit of answering questions directly and ensure others respond in the same way. Direct communication is good business.

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