Tracie Marquardt asks why

5 Strategic Reasons to Ask Why (and Get Better Results)

Making sound business decisions and spending your limited resources on well-supported actions means you don’t have to work so hard to get your desired results. Asking the question ‘why’ is a key tactic that will help you achieve these goals. It’s a questioning technique that is favoured in organizations with an open communication style, and it can generate huge benefits to you, your business partner, and your organization.

Do you feel like you are being challenged when someone asks you, ‘Why’? Or are you thankful that someone is engaging you in a conversation that could help bring even more clarity to the topic?

I found myself in a situation recently where I was asked, simply, ‘Why?’ Not only did the question give me insight into my business partner’s decision-making approach, but it also gave me an opportunity to clarify the reasons for my proposal and the related follow-on actions. It was a super way for me to know that my business partner was struggling with the concept and needed more information to support a decision that in the end would help us both achieve better results.

The power of that one-word question opened up a conversation that has generated thousands of euros in additional investment, which makes the experience one worth sharing.

Here are my top 5 strategic reasons to ask the question ‘Why?’ to help you focus your time, money and energy on activities that will help you move forward, faster:

  1. Provide proof of sound reasoning

Being able to answer the question ‘why’ shows that you are well prepared and that you’re recommended actions are grounded. This will help others agree to your proposed course of action. Your business partners will be more willing to invest their resources once they understand your clear reasoning.

  1. Discover impact and motivation

When your business partner understands the benefits of doing something or the risks of not doing something, they will be more willing to agree to your recommendation for action. When the impact is less tangible to your business partner, explaining your motivation may be the key you need to unlock cooperation.

  1. Drill down to the root cause

If you are a fan of the ‘5 Whys’ method, you’ll know that asking ‘why’ is a proven way to identify the root cause of a problem. It’s also an effective way to challenge the appropriateness of a recommendation.

  1. Build bridges in your business relationships

When someone asks you ‘why’, you can rest assured that the other person is paying attention to your work and wants to know more. Asking ‘why’ creates conversation and awareness while creating an opportunity to show empathy or give credit where it is due.

  1. Create an ‘inclusive’ environment

An open, collaborative environment can lead to new ideas and greater results than previously envisioned. It also supports a team environment in which all voices have value.

Consider how and when you ask ‘why’

As with every communication interaction you have, my advice is to always consider HOW you say something. So remember to take body language and tone of voice into account. Otherwise, you may be perceived as challenging or bullying rather than promoting sound decision-making.

When asking the question ‘why?’ in written communication, give sufficient context around your question so that the reader has enough information to give you a satisfactory answer.

Finally, keep your environment in mind. Culture, hierarchy, corporate politics and confidentiality play a role in WHETHER you should ask ‘why’, and WHEN you ask ‘why’. Stay out of hot water by assessing those situations on an individual basis.

How has the question ‘why’ helped or hindered you in achieving your success? Let us know in the comments below.

All the best

Tracie Marquardt

Quality Assurance Communication


Published by

Tracie Marquardt

I've been living outside of my home country for over 20 years. I've lived in 3 countries and 10 cities. Falling in love with Paris is what led me to Europe (and I go back often). I think Germany is an amazing country, and a great hub from which to travel to the rest of Europe. I started my own business in the Heidelberg region in 2013. My mission is helping international professionals communicate their key messages clearly and concisely in English. I believe that language and culture are huge factors in the success of our communication, and must be taken into account when we interact with and build relationships with others. By networking together from around the world, we are able to build bridges, add value to each others lives, and I hope, contribute to each others success in life, no matter how that success is defined. So let's get started!